Tag Archives: shallot pasta

Not My Mother’s Spaghetti

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 3.06.37 PM

The church in Ryssby, Sweden – where my grandmother, Anna Davis Carlson (Karlsson), grew up

Yes, my mother, born to parents who had immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden, fixed my brother and me spaghetti when we were growing up.  But I don’t remember having a jar of dried basil or dried oregano anywhere in our cupboard – or oregano and basil growing in our huge garden.  My mother’s spaghetti was pretty basic (but actually delicious).  You browned hamburger (as we called it then) and chopped green peppers and onions (no garlic – I never remember seeing a head of garlic in our kitchen), salted it all really, really well, added some canned tomatoes, and simmered it for a while.  And I’m guessing she browned the meat in lots of butter!  Surprisingly, we did always have a can of Kraft’s grated parmesan cheese on hand.  How fancy can you get!

Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 4.19.36 PM

a 1960 Kraft ad

I adapted my mom’s recipe slightly and fixed it often over the years for our kids.

But after our two kids had grown up and moved away I decided that Asian noodles were way more “my” thing than pasta.  And so I quit cooking it.  Poor Andy.  He never shared my sentiment.  When – during the pandemic-filled March of 2020 – I saw the empty shelves at our local market where the pasta should have been, I realized that my eating habits aren’t in sync with the rest of the country’s.

And then that same week in March our daughter, Sara, called in a panic and said the grocery stores in San Francisco were also stripped bare of spaghetti and orecchiette and fettuccine and penne.  I offered to mail her some of our unused (and dated 2/05/2017) pasta.

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 10.37.17 AM

Brown Rice Lasagne Noodles – all that remained on a SF grocery shelf (thx, Joe, for the photo)

Clearly, I thought to myself, I have underestimated pasta and folks’ love of it – and I need to add recipes to the BigLittleMeals’ list!  So I decided to go to three very famous food writers (bloggers would be a misnomer; they’re way fancier than that!) and find out what some of their most popular pasta recipes are.  Then – much to Andy’s delight – we tested the pasta recipes and are reporting back.  In today’s Andy’s Corner Andy is puzzling over pasta!

For my food writers I chose Ina Garten (aka The BarefootContessa) and Melissa Clark and Alison Roman because all three are incredibly popular online.  And because they are from different generations and I thought their recipes and approach to cooking might reflect that somewhat.  I’ll admit that it’s odd that they’re all living in or near New York City.  Is that the hub of the U.S. food scene (as well as the coronavirus)?

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.56.35 AM

Ina Garten

Ina is just a little younger than I am.  Her cookbooks and writing seem to revolve around her life in the East Hamptons, her gorgeously set, formal dining table,  her perfectly manicured shrubs, and her husband Jeffrey, whom she met at the age of 15 and married at 20 (I still haven’t forgiven her for releasing a cookbook called Cooking for Jeffrey).  Her recipes are usually about as perfect as her life seems to be.  (A funny update: an April 1 Instagram video by Ina – which has “gone viral” – shows her fixing a g-normous Cosmopolitan and pouring it into a g-normous martini glass – all apparently for herself.  Plus, she looks shockingly normal – i.e., maybe a little weary?).

Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 2.06.16 PM

Ina’s life


Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.34.38 AM

Melissa Clark

Melissa Clark, a 1990 graduate of Barnard, is middle-aged. Her life appears to be a little messier and normal than Ina’s.  She’s divorced and remarried; she has a child still at home who requires her attention.  She seems unpretentious.  But, as with Ina, we know that if Melissa puts a recipe out there on the NYTimes, we can be pretty sure it’s going to work.  If you want to know more about her, here’s a nice article in The Columbia Magazine (Melissa received a Master’s degree in writing from Columbia).

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 12.02.31 PM

Alison Roman

Alison Roman is the millennial of this three-some.  She’s in her mid-thirties, single, living in a normal, modest-looking Brooklyn apartment with a teeny tiny kitchen.   Though she dropped out of UC Santa Cruz (same university our daughter graduated from) she’s gone on to be tremendously successful in the world of food (not to say our daughter isn’t also tremendously successful in the world of food! 🙂 ). One of Alison’s cookbooks is Dining In – the very name we use for our BigLittleMeals’ dinner parties (though our name came from the Vietnam-era military dinners, not from Alison’s cookbook).

The Cut – an online-magazine dedicated to “Style, Self, Culture, Power”- has called Roman “the domestic goddess of the apocalypse.”  Pretty impressive!  Her Twitter page shows she has 38,000 followers.  But, to be fair, Ina Garten has about 172,000 followers of her Tweets.

Yes, the pasta recipes from these three talented ladies are a far cry from my mother’s spaghetti.  Ina’s bolognese takes the basic ground beef and tomatoes recipe to a way fancier level, while keeping it all easy and quick to put together.  Melissa’s corn and pasta is probably not very Italian, but it works.  And when Alison caramelizes shallots and then dumps in some anchovies, the result….well, it has her Twitter followers going Tweet crazy!

I know you’re all dying to know which food writer’s pasta we loved most.  Andy picks Alison’s and I pick Melissa’s – but we both liked Ina’s too.  It’s a win win all the the way around.  Now if you can just find some pasta on your grocer’s shelves! Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: