My little container garden has finally given up the ghost for this season, but before it gasped its last breath, it produced some plump heirloom cherry tomatoes and a few robust stalks of fragrant basil. It was the perfect makings for Liv’s yummy pasta. In another life I waited tables at a Governor’s club and a staple on the menu was a very simple pasta dish that combined angel hair pasta, Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and goat cheese. It was one of those dishes where the simplicity of the ingredients belied the depths of the flavors. I recreated it one night for dinner when I was short on time and it was a hit, especially with my daughter who eats goat cheese like a food group. So when our humble containers yielded the ingredients for the pasta dish of Liv’s dreams, it was an easy choice about what to have for dinner and an opportunity to show Liv how to make this for herself.
These moment she and I spend in the kitchen together remind me of how important it is to savor each second with those you love. We are forging a space where we get to know each other over puffs of flour whisping around the air and dough that sticks to our fingers as we knead it by hand. In today’s immediate gratification driven society, taking time to cook with your kids in the kitchen provides face-to-face, no electronics, natural conversation. I wanted to be present in my family’s life. I longed for that connection with them that can be forged through the communal act of meals. Cooking had been a part of my public life for a long time and I wanted to find its place in my private life. I had amazing memories of baking with my Nanny while I was growing up and I wanted to connect with my children over food and inspire them the way I was. I can still remember the dollops of batter for corn fritters splooshing into the pan and the cloud of flour that dusted me as I rolled out the dough for homemade buttermilk doughnuts. The scent of fresh maple syrup heating over the stove releasing its caramel aroma filled my nostrils. The conversations Nanny and I had over rhubarb stalks and dandelion greens are some of my strongest memories from my childhood. I wanted to find a way to communicate deeply and personally with my family like that and create those memories for them.
These evening when Liv and I get out my recipe book, don our aprons and get down to cooking offer that conversation space I have looked for over the years. For me, it’s important to hang on to those traditional activities, like having dinner together around a table with no phones or devices, so I never lose sight of what makes a family work. It’s not the bustle of “getting everything done,” and it’s not the pressures of having the bigger house or better car; it is reminding each other why you love one another and celebrating our human connection to each other. Family food lore is how that happens in my house.
cherry tomatoes (I use fresh from the garden, as many as I can pick, but if they are not available, one container of heirloom cherries work as well), quartered
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 box Angel Hair pasta
lots of fresh basil (I use two full stalks from my plants, but you could also buy one of the packages at the store if need be- they usually come in one size, but if you have the option, get a big one), rinsed and rough chopped
1 log of good goat cheese
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
First you want rinse all your produce. I like to use a salad spinner for the basil so that all the water is removed, but you could also rinse the leaves and tamp them between two paper towels if you do not have a spinner. You also need to put a stockpot on with enough water to cook your pasta. When the water is boiling, add the pasta, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of olive oil.
Next, heat your olive oil in a saute pan over medium high. I use a wok pan so that I can get all my ingredients in the pan and still have room to flip the pasta around to mix it. Once your oil comes to temperature, add the garlic. Allow the garlic to saute and become fragrant, 2-3 minutes usually.
Once the garlic has begun to infuse the oil, add the tomatoes. I like my tomatoes to still hold firm texture so I only saute them for about five minutes. If you like a softer tomato, leave them on a couple extra minutes. When the tomatoes are ready, add the chopped basil. There should be an immediate herbaceous scent filling the air.
While all this sauteing is going on, your pasta should be cooking. Angel hair requires very little time in the pot. You want the pasta to still be firm but not chewy. Usually, I cook mine for 5-7 minutes.
Once you reach happiness in the saute pan and you have some al dente pasta, it is time to combine. Transfer the pasta to all the goodness in the saute pan and toss. This takes a quick wrist motion, but if you are not up to tossing your food in the air playfully, you could also grab a set of tongs and “toss” your ingredients manually. At this point you have a decision to make about the goat cheese. My husband likes his formed into dolloped atop his pasta. My daughter and I like it tossed in the pan with the pasta so it can warm and spread throughout the pasta. Either way it is tasty. Once you decide, finish your pasta and plate. Another dish in Liv’s arsenal. I like this dish with the Coppola Rosso, but any nice Italian red will do. Enjoy!