My books are like my kids or my cats since I don’t have children. You know what I mean. Picking a favorite just isn’t possible. Each one is special in its own way. But, when the others aren’t looking, I do sometimes point out a few that are maybe just a little bit extra special. Don’t tell them I said that. There are a lot of them. I can’t help it. One that I tend to favor is On Top of Spaghetti by Johanne Killeen and George Germon. It’s a book of nothing but pasta recipes, and pasta does make me very happy. I’ve cooked from this book many times, and I know that whatever I pick from its pages is going to be good. Whether it’s pasta with vegetables, tomato sauces, seafood, or baked pasta, the book has never let me down. It had been a while since I spent time with it, so I pulled it off the shelf a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for something light and fresh for summer. The head note to this recipe reads “this is as close to pasta salad as we get,” and that sounded perfect. I made a couple of small changes to the original ingredient list. Instead of using Scotch bonnet pepper sauce, I used some fresh, locally-grown habaneros, and since the oregano in my herb garden hasn’t survived our summer very well, I used fresh basil.
To begin, chop large tomatoes or halve cherry tomatoes as I did, and place them in a large bowl. Next, onion was minced and cucumbers were chopped, and both were added to the tomatoes. I seeded and finely chopped two habaneros rather than using pepper sauce. Then, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, and salt were added. Fresh oregano was supposed to have been added in addition to the dried, but since my fresh oregano has about two leaves on the plant right now, I added fresh basil instead. The mix of vegetables and herbs with the oil and vinegar was set aside to allow the flavors to mingle and the onion’s sharpness to subside. Meanwhile, the pappardelle was cooked in boiling water and drained. It was then tossed with the vegetables and vinaigrette, more basil was added on top, and dinner was ready.
This isn’t intended as a chilled pasta salad. Instead, it’s a room temperature pasta dish with raw vegetables. But, it does end up being a lot of pasta which means we had leftovers. Pulling the pasta out of the refrigerator and letting it come up to room temperature before serving those leftovers worked well. The finely chopped habaneros distributed throughout all that pasta added just enough of a punch, and the layered flavor of the onion and dried oregano played well with the fresh tomato and cucumber. As it always does, this book delivered another great meal, not that I play favorites.