On creating your own traditions, and pasta /

It starts almost as soon as I get home, every tuesday. I walk through the door, Nuno steps down from the creative tower (a second floor we turned into a shared office by adding the cheapest desks we could find and street found chairs, one of them desperately lacking a backrest), and within a ten minutes timespan the kitchen counter is covered in a few items, always the same.
There is a bottle of red wine (always the same too, we found one we like, and we’re never taking risks again), a packet of dry, good quality pasta, nuts soaking, a bouquet of fresh herbs releasing their soft smell, and a few random vegetables depending on the season.
As I grab my knife and start slicing, chopping, roasting, boiling, Nuno has two tasks. Very important ones.
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First, he pours us two glasses of red, and sets them aside. Then, he takes out his phone and looks for the best italian music to fit the mood. Most of the time, we pretend to look for something new, but end up listening to the same Adriano Celentano songs every time anyways. In fact, I am listening to him right now, to put myself in the mood. (And you should do the same.)
Once this is all on track, we both stand in the kitchen, dancing around, talking about the day, having sips of wine and stirring the sauce from time to time.
I have tried to switch it up, to make pizza, lasagna, gnocchis…but it seemed those attempts were always met with a poorly hidden disappointment. So I gave up in the end, and we always sit in front of massive bowls of pasta to swirl around our forks. Nuno’s is exceptionally big, I have no idea how so many spaghettis can fit inside such a tiny body.
If I somehow still find it in me to not simply collapse into bed after the dishes have been done, we will even watch an Italian film, a classic of Nuno’s chosing. I will most likely fall asleep to it on the couch while moaning and begging for cuddles, wake up with the end song and drag a heavy body upstairs.
As we now live in two different countries again, I have tried to keep our own little tradition alive by eating a bowl of pasta every tuesday. Hell, I even bought a bottle of wine just for myself and felt like a grown-up.
So here is one of the many versions of what we like to call our Italian tuesday. Like most great dishes, it is about much more than the food itself, it’s the wine that goes with it, the music you listen to, the conversation that flows, and the person you fight over the scraps with.
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For 4 big plates :
500g spaghetti or tagliatelles
1 bottle of passata (smooth) or 2 big tomato cans (chunky)
3 onions (medium to big)
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2tbsp olive oil
1 very big handful of basil
2 tsp oregano
salt, pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp tomato paste (from a tube)
pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
Optional : capers
In a dry pan toast the seeds until golden and crunchy. Set aside.
Slice the onions thinly and start caramelizing them in a pan with olive oil, you want them to soften but not burn (sprinkling with salt helps release the water quicker).
While they cook down, chop the garlic finely and add it to the pan. When the onions start smelling sweet and the garlic is fragrant deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, and quickly add the passata.
It is now time to add the oregano, tomato paste, soy sauce and a bit of pepper. Let this simmer for a good fifteen minutes, the longer, the deeper in flavor.
You can take this time to boil your pasta, keeping it al dente if possible, as that is where the line between mushy sloppy food and wonderful comforting pasta lies.
When they are cooked, drizzle them with olive oil, pile big portions onto four plates, cover them in tomato sauce, freshly (this is important) sliced basil, toasted seeds, and freshly cracked pepper. Feel free to drizzle more olive oil or some balsamic reduction on top, the little last minute add ons are generally my favorite part of any dish.
Turn up the music, grab your wine, and
Voilà.
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