Pasta Music

The other night, I was making dinner and listening to my beloved iPod. First I listened to an episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge, which was mighty interesting, and then I decided on some music. I was making a meal of our favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe and spinach salad with apple and mustard vinaigrette (thanks, Michelle, it was yummy!).

The music that I most enjoy cooking to is The Waifs album, Up All Night. I don’t have any of their other albums, so I’m not sure if I would like them as much, but I really, really love this one. Back when I worked in a cubicle, I couldn’t stand the sounds associated with said land. If you’ve never had to work in an environment where your neighbor is less than two feet away from you, and though you can’t see them, you can hear every sniff, snort, chew, fart, snicker, etc., count yourself lucky. If you have, you know that it’s kinda nice to have some background music on, to serve as white noise and dampen the other sounds. In my cubicles (yes, plural, as I had several jobs in the same business park), I had pretty crappy radio reception, and could only get one station that I actually liked, which was KFOG. So, listen to KFOG I would. Every day, all day, from the time I arrived at work until the time I left to go home. For awhile, they were playing the hell out of the Waifs song, Lighthouse. I liked the song well enough, but I heard it so damn often, and it didn’t really hit me, you know? Then one day, because The Waifs were going to play at a free concert sponsored by the station, they cut a tiny bit deeper into the album, and played London Still. I was hooked, and ordered the CD post haste. I’ve gotten much more than my money’s worth out of that purchase, because unlike some other spontaneous music purchases, I like the whole album. I’m not saying I like every song as much as London Still, but I do like every song, and I enjoy listening to the whole thing, especially while I cook dinner.

Which brings me to a side thought…do you find yourself listening to whole albums that often anymore? Do you even buy whole albums anymore? Why am I calling them albums, anyway? With iTunes and the ilk, it’s so easy to buy just a song or two, and you never get the experience of the whole album…you never hear whether the artist put any thought into the order and placement of the songs, if they’re telling a story, if there’s a cohesiveness to it that might be worthwhile and satisfying. That’s how I feel about this album, though I’m not sure that there’s a story deeper than these folks seem pretty homesick in quite a few of their songs. But I find listening to the whole thing, one song after another, to be satisfying. I find this song, Three Down, (click to enjoy!) to be quite catchy and fun, though it carries a country twang that I usually wouldn’t enjoy.

And, because this is that kind of twisty, turny, not quite cohesive post (at least not in my mind), here’s the best spaghetti and meatballs recipe ever. You’re welcome.

Oh, and while I like to listen to this album often while cooking, Maya seems to think I mostly play it when I make pasta, so she thinks of it as Pasta Music. Could be she’s right.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
from Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza, & Calzone cookbook, by Alice Waters

4 cloves garlic
2 shallots
Olive oil
A handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 slices dry bread
1/2 lb ground pork*
1/2 lb ground beef*
1/4 lb grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper

14 to 16 ripe tomatoes**
2 onions
2 or 3 cloves garlic
2 tblsp virgin olive oil
2 tblsp tomato paste
A few sprigs fresh oregano with flowers***
A few sprigs fresh basil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper
Prosciutto bone****

Spaghetti, fresh or dried, for 4*****
Fresh parsley

Peel and chop the garlic and shallots and cook them briefly in a little olive oil. Chop the parsley and thyme together. Soak 2 slices of dry bread, crusts removed, in a little milk until they are moist again. Squeeze out the excess milk and break up the bread. Combine the pork and beef, garlic, shallots, herbs, bread crumbs, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Fry a little bit of the mixture to taste for salt. Form the meatballs. The recipe will make about a dozen and a half that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Brown the meatballs in a skillet in a little olive oil. They need only brown on the outside, not cook all the way through. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

Peel and seed the tomatoes and roughly chop them. Finely dice the onion and chop the garlic. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. When they have softened, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Pluck the oregano flowers, cut the basil into thin ribbons, and add them to the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Simmer the sauce with a small section of prosciutto bone for 15 minutes.

Put the meatballs in the sauce and simmer another 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook the spaghetti and serve sauced with the tomatoes and meatballs. Garnished with freshly chopped Italian parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.

* I substitute ground lamb and turkey sausage for the pork and beef. I really like the flavor the sausage gives the meatballs. Also, I use 1 lb of lamb, and about 3/4 lb of turkey sausage, so my recipe makes more than this one. I leave all other measurements the same, excepting the tomatoes. Seems to work fine.

** This is a ‘fall pasta’ in the cookbook, which is divided into sections based on seasons. And in fall, you can indeed find ripe tomatoes around here. But fall is pretty warm here, at least when the tomatoes are at their best (duh), so I make this dish mainly in the winter, and I use canned tomatoes. The last batch, which was a lot, I used two 28 oz cans of chopped tomatoes, drained. Worked great.

***We don’t grow our own oregano, and I’ve never seen it with flowers in the grocery store, so I just use fresh oregano leaves, and it’s yummy.

****I don’t bother with this step, because Ted doesn’t eat pork. I’m sure it would give the sauce a nice depth of flavor, but I kinda think the sausage does that as well.

*****I use a whole 16 oz box of dried. This dish can stand up nicely to whole wheat pasta if you prefer it. The way I make it, it serves more than 4 people, unless perhaps one of those 4 is Eric, and he’s been working hard all day at a farm.

4 thoughts on “Pasta Music

  1. Well, I’m not sure if it’s exclusively pasta music because you were listening to that album when you were making fish the other night. 🙂 Maybe it’s “cooking music.” I still listen to full albums — but mostly in the car. Aja by Steely Dan is currently in “Boomer’s” player.

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