Pasta Don't Go

Thank God for pasta. I say this not because I’m Italian, or because I could easily eat pasta every day for the rest of my life, though both of these things are true. I say it because as a personal chef who prepares food days ahead of when it will be eaten, I’m always looking for meals that improve with time, rather than degrade. Pasta most certainly fits this bill, when it’s prepared properly.

My grandmother Michelina Tacelli used to make a tomato sauce she called gravy that was brimming with ground beef and spicy pork sausage. It was always simmering on the stove. Ladled over pasta and sprinkled with fresh grated Parmesan, I would sit on the balcony overlooking the littered street in Providence’s Federal Hill and eat like a refugee.

If by some bizarre turn of fate, i didn’t finish my plate, it would get stored in the fridge under foil. The next day I’d wake up to the sound of her frying my spaghetti in a skillet, and eat it for breakfast with a hunk of Italian bread smeared with butter. Somehow, it was even better than the night before.

I worry that pasta’s going out of fashion. All those heat-free, gluten-free, diabetic, and Atkins diets are giving carbs a bad name. Pasta boxes now instruct us to cook the pasta the minimum number of minutes to keep the glycemic index down and therefore our blood sugar levels. According to the National Pasta Association, pasta is actually a ‘good carb.’ Don’t forget the new whole wheat and multi-grain pastas and well as the stuff fortified with folic acid, iron, B-vitamins, and omega-3′s. Maybe pasta’s going to stick around after all.

Besides, how could anyone tire of pasta with the variety of shapes and the multitude of sauces that can adorn them? According to an article in the New York Times, all those shapes developed as a way for women to show off their creative talents in the poorer parts of Italy. I feel the same way!

Try this Mid-Summer Pasta.

  • 1/2 pound short chunky pasta, like penne cooked al dente
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups washed, sliced kale
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cups sliced black olives
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add kale and saute till wilted. Add garlic and olives and saute till fragrant (about 3 minutes). Add tomatoes and salt and pepper. Saute till tomatoes are collapsing (5 minutes). Add cooked pasta and 1/4 cup water. Stir and heat through. Remove from heat. Toss with zest and serve.

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