“I am a sucker for those old traditional places, and Rome is as good as it gets, particularly when you throw in Italian food” ~ Roger Federer
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Not long ago our neighbors took a month-long trip to Italy
A place they've wanted to visit for as long as I've known them. He (a history buff) looked forward to seeing all of the historical sites .. she (a quiet intellectual) couldn't wait for the peacefulness of the countryside
After they returned .. we had the best of intentions “Let's bring over a bottle of wine .. sit on their deck .. and ask them all about it.” Instead .. the days passed by as they usually do .. and the best we could muster were friendly waves and promises of
“We've got to get together soon”
Eventually, enough was enough .. and it was decided .. we're going to make it happen. That's when things became tricky
Take a few families .. all with different summer calendars. Those packed with the likes of business trips .. children .. grandchildren .. extracurricular activities .. grill-outs .. a wedding (and a partridge in a pear tree?) and try to find
an evening to get together
And yet .. it happened. We did it(!)
The night was picture perfect .. so we ate dinner outside. As I listened to everyone tell stories of their days .. I couldn't help but smile. My goodness .. if there's any comparison to a twisted game of Tetris .. it would have to be
a woman's calendar
Women are notoriously flexible creatures .. are we not? Schedules that shift here and there like tiny wooden Jenga pieces. “Would it be ok to call a bit early? Can we move lunch back to 2? Does 7 pm work for dinner? I'll be there in 10 (shoot .. make that 20)”
Yet in the midst of the shuffle .. it's easy to shift ourselves aside. The things we need .. time earmarked for recharging our batteries. How easy it is to let everything else spinning around us be so .. unmovable .. and set in stone.
Doctor appointments .. deadlines at work .. kids activities .. dropping our dog off at the groomer .. families visiting .. and ack(!)
How can it be Monday already? We need to take out the trash ..
“Can I beg a rain check on our dinner?”
But this past weekend .. our candy-colored Tetris games read just one line: an evening with friends
She'd cooked one of her signature veggie filled curries. I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp .. and a big salad. Others brought bread .. appetizers .. and some pretty incredible bottles of wine.
We talked the night away .. chatting about everything from making pasta in Italy .. to gondola rides in Venice.
As we said our good-byes and headed off into the night .. everyone was happier for it all. We were happier for pausing .. sitting .. resting .. and letting ourselves be transported to a place so very far away. Happy that we'd not dared to move the Tetris line we'd built into our week
the evening set aside for friendship
I've always been an introvert .. and given the choice, I'm far more comfortable observing than participating. As a result .. for nearly forty years my female relationships (and those as a married couple) .. sadly .. were anything but spectacular.
There came a point where I decided to change all that .. but admittedly the process has been anything but easy. Worthwhile? Yes(!) Comfortable? Not so much
Over the past few months, I've also been touched by Dr. Laura .. and the death of her husband of thirty years .. this past November.
As she's begun sharing snippets of her grief .. my heart has gone out to her. The breaths whispered about loss .. are followed by those of gratitude for the people surrounding her. How thankful she is to have taken the time over the years .. to build and nurture such
a strong and diverse network of friendships
Therefore .. it's nights like this that serve as gentle reminders
How easy it is to forget how much I need other people (especially women) in my life. I'm better when I hear someone else's story reverberate against my own. I'm reminded that a woman's mind is such a cool thing. A library card catalog really .. filled with vast amounts of
knowledge .. experience .. perspective
Looking for hope? Here's a story. Seeking truth? Listen to this. Need a great recipe for an everyday salad? Wait a second .. let me find it .. there .. perfect .. this one.
Over the years .. every lunch date I've accepted .. every Spaghetti Saturday we've hosted .. every dinner get-together purposed .. has been a nudge out of my comfort zone.
Intentional steps toward fostering a network of good to surround us .. a network of support. Knowing that prioritizing friendships is work .. filled with balance and expectations. But then again .. good work nearly always brings a great reward.
This past weekend .. another affirmation that the rewards can be plenty.
How wonderful it felt to be surrounded by stories of Italy .. wine .. bread .. dinner under the stars .. not to mention .. a backyard library filled with
a heck of a lot of wisdom
A new recipe to share today .. a fantastically delicious twist on a classic Roman dish
Cacio e Pepe is a dish that appears on nearly every menu in Rome. It's the simplest of dishes really .. grated Pecorino Romano cheese .. freshly ground black pepper .. and pasta water.
If one were to watch a practiced hand make it .. they might think the instructions were as simple as cook the noodles and drain. Toss with olive oil .. butter .. black pepper ..and grated cheese. Serve
But we all know the simplest of recipes can often be the most confounding. In the end .. what you're going for is a creamy sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti with flavor.
For something with such a simple list of ingredients .. methods and ingredients for preparing this are all over the map. Some versions use oil or butter .. others vary when it comes to the cheese (grate it fine .. mix in small pebbles of Romano). Still others .. such as this add their own flavors
No matter the prep method .. or ingredients used .. it seems people will find something inauthentic with each variation. To which I say?
Ignore them all and simply enjoy your spaghetti!
ps: For recipes and stories from Spaghetti Saturday .. here
~ Adapted from Cravings by Chrissy Teigen
Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe
- Kosher salt for salting the pasta water
- 12 ounces dried spaghetti choose your favorite gluten-free variety if you desire
- 1/4 pound about 3/4 cup pancetta or bacon, finely diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp garlic minced (~ 4 big cloves)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes +/- depending on your heat tolerance
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese + more for serving
- 3 cups baby arugula roughly torn
- In a large pot of heavily salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water (it comes in handy), then drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until crisped (~ 7 to 9 minutes)
- Add the olive oil, then add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper and cook until fragrant (~ 1 minute)
- Add the lemon juice to the skillet, then add the drained pasta
- Toss to coat.
- Add the cheese and toss, adding the pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time (the pasta water helps the cheese coat the pasta)
- Add the arugula and toss until it wilts about 1 minute.
- Season to taste with additional salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Serve with more cheese