Monday, September 23, 2019

Always Bee Cooking #5: The Herb Butter Pasta Photoessay

 The way I tend to blather on in these posts is definitely a product of my own insecurity. My cooking is fairly recent, my history of taste nonexistent. I've covered that before. Plus, I plan on blathering at length next month when I talk about the things I've found useful (and not so) in the learning process, specifically around shows and books. So this month I'm just going to do one recipe, accompanied by a photoessay.

This herb butter pasta is maybe the only recipe I feel like I really deserve to share. I've been tinkering with it for well over a year, evolving it as my understanding does and eating the results the whole time. I hope you enjoy.

I should note: this isn't dinner party food. It's "I couldn't be fucked to do more but I need to be full" food, and it's good at that.

What You Need:

  • 1 packet spaghetti
  • Dried Herbs (Sage, Thyme, Black Peppercorn, Basil)
  • Butter (~¾ of a stick or ~4 spoonfuls Earth Balance)
  • Salt
  • Mortar & Pestle (optional)

Bring a decent-sized pot to a boil, salting the water liberally. Seriously, it's all the salt we're going to use and a good amount of it is going to get dumped with the water. Don't skimp.

While the water is coming to a boil, grind up thyme, peppercorns, and basil in the mortar and pestle. You're going to want 12-15 full black peppercorns, and roughly a 2.5:1 ratio of thyme to basil. Be generous. If you're using fresh sage, pulverize it at the same time; if dried, add it to the mortar & pestle after grinding. Roughly 1:1 with the thyme - maybe as much as 1.5:1.

If you don't have a mortar and pestle, that's fine. It's just a slightly different texture. You might want to leave the butter on medium-low a little longer to let the unmuddled herbs incorporate. Likely just 3-4 minutes rather than 2-3.

Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti. Cook according to package instructions (probably around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally).

Put a pan over medium-low heat. Once it has heated up (probably when you have about 5-7 minutes left on the spaghetti) add the butter/Earth Balance. When the butter is mostly melted, add the herbs. Stir to incorporate. When the butter is entirely melted and the herbs have had a couple minutes to infuse, turn the burner to low to keep everything melted.

Reserve about a half-bowl (the one you're going to eat out of works) worth of the spaghetti water and drain the rest. Add the drained spaghetti back to the pot and pour in the herb butter and reserved water. Stir to combine. Serve. You'll have roughly 6 bowls worth.

Refrigerate any leftovers in tupperware; I suspect they'll stay good for some time, but I've never had them last more than a week or so. Reheating in a pan (with just barely enough butter to coat the bottom) over medium heat is nice.


Grate some parmesan on it.

Boil some frozen peas while cooking and throw them in. It's not fancy, but I've done it a lot and it works (and at least feels healthier). Maybe go lighter on the sage with this version, since the peas are already earthy.

If you do want fancy (and more filling), toss sticked-carrots and broccoli florets in a little bit of oil, salt, pepper, garlic-, onion-, & celery leaf-powder, then roast at 400 degrees on a baking sheet. Halved brussel sprouts work well here too, as do cauliflower florets. Most veggies you can roast will, I think.

Check after about ten minutes, then every five until they reach desired doneness. I like to pull them when the carrots are just starting to lose their crunch, usually around minute 15-20. Add after the herb butter. The juice of half a lemon can really brighten everything up as well.


Photos of some of the alternatives (from a while back) (my phone camera sucks and always has sorry)

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