In Odette Williams’s new book Simple Pasta, she includes a love letter I think we can all relate to…
“Dear Pasta,” she writes. “I’ll always want you… I love that you hate perfect. Perfect is exhausting… Has anyone told you you deserve a tablecloth? Thank you for settling my kids time after time.”
The letter is longer, and I might add two more: Thank you for Store-Bought You, for letting me fall back on you for the simplest weeknight dinner; but also, thank you for From-Scratch You, for being there when I want to treat myself to something special. Or when I’m in the mood for a project or crowd-pleasing dinner party.
Simple Pasta is for both sides of the home cook. It’s a collection of some of the most gorgeously rustic pastas you can imagine. Think: Cacio e Pepe, Zucchini and Basil Casarecce, Peppery Pappardelle with Pancetta and Mushrooms, Garlic Shrimp Pasta with Crispy Breadcrumbs, Sweet Corn and Jalapeño Ravioli, Spaghetti al Limone, Wicked White Bolognese. In every recipe, Odette, who in spite of being a world-class pasta lover her whole life, didn’t learn how to make it from scratch until her 40s, gives options for store-bought and homemade in every recipe.
The cookbook, photographed in both Fire Island and Italy, oozes the laid-back charm we saw in her last book Simple Cake. And I will say, if anyone can convince me to make from-scratch pasta on the regular, it’s her. Either way, I will definitely start with this Agnoletti.
Garganelli with Vodka Sauce
From Simple Pasta by Odette Williams
Makes 4 servings
Fresh Pasta: Your favorite from-scratch egg dough shaped into garganelli (or pick up her book for her very clear step-by-step)
Store-bought Pasta: 1 pound dried garganelli or penne
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 small red Thai Chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for topping
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves, plus small leaves for topping
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
In a large heavy-bottomed frying pan, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, garlic, and chile, and sauté just until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes, then pour in the vodka and cook it off for a couple minutes more.
Add the cream to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes. Lower the heat and keep the sauce warm.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes or according to package instructions if using store-bought. Using a large spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pasta into the warm sauce, along with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pasta water (until it reaches desired sauciness) and toss to coat. Stir in the Parmigiano and basil, then season with the salt.
Serve the pasta topped with additional Parmigiano and small basil leaves.
We love your book, Odette! Thank you!
P.S. Spaghetti with broccoli pesto and five-ingredient dinners.
(Photos by Graydon Herriott. Reprinted with permission from Simple Pasta by Odette Williams.)