I am accustomed to travel challenges, but Hattiesburg to Chicago and back in 36 hours with two stints at one of the world’s largest trade gatherings— The National Restaurant Association Show— is a beast. The return flight to Jackson was a late one, so I called my friend, David Trigiani. “My flight will be in at 10 p.m. and I have a business meeting in Jackson early in the morning, do you mind if I crash in your spare bedroom?”
“No problem,” Trigiani said.
I walked through his front door around 10:15p.m., as exhausted as I could ever remember being. We sat at his kitchen table and caught up for a few minutes. “Do you want some pasta?” Trigiani asked. That might seem like an off-the-wall question from most. But for those who know the dual-citizen Italophile, you know three things: 1.) He loves to cook pasta. 2.) He loves to serve pasta. 3.) He cooks pasta well.
I had a pizza at a Wolfgang Puck Express in the airport around 3 p.m., “I’m not too terribly hungry.” I said.
“I whipped up some Pasta Trigiani earlier. I could heat some up for you.” He was referring to one of his go-to pasta dishes that I named “Pasta Trigiani” when I included it in my last cookbook. I love the recipe. It is, in many ways, the quintessential Italian pasta dish— light, uncomplicated, and incredibly flavorful. I wasn’t very hungry. It was late. I needed to sleep, but I didn’t want his effort to go for naught. “Thanks, just heat up a tiny bit. I can’t eat much.”
He pulled a rather large bowl of pasta from the refrigerator and moved a tiny portion of pasta into a smaller bowl before reheating it in the microwave. He then drizzled some extra-virgin olive oil on the dish, which served to slightly loosen the pasta. I polished off the entire bowl in quick measure. “Do you mind heating up the rest of that?” I asked. It’s a question Trigiani had probably anticipated even though he had returned the bowl to the refrigerator.
Pasta Trigiani is nothing more than a light dish of extra virgin olive oil, freshly minced garlic, crushed red pepper, anchovies, and angel hair pasta. People who hate anchovies (or think that they hate anchovies) love it. My kids, who never eat anchovies, love it. It was exactly what I needed and I felt restored after the long, whirlwind journey. I began to think about the process of restoration and the original concept for restaurants.
Danny Meyer, the country’s preeminent restaurateur, explained it this way in a recent TEDx talk. “It all started with soup. The original concept for a restaurant came from the French word ‘restore.’ And the whole notion started at restaurants, which were called ‘bouillons.’ Because there was nothing more restorative— there is still nothing more restorative— than a good bowl of consume (bone broth).” I would argue that Pasta Trigiani gives consume a run for its money.
Terrior is a French word used by wine devotees to describe that the unique characteristics of a wine based on the environment in which the grapes are grown (a regions climate, soil, and terrain). In food it describes the notion of where one eats tastes like the location where one is eating.
Though he would totally object to a French term being used to describe his Italian dish, at that moment Pasta Trigiani tasted exactly like what I have come to expect from his kitchen, but it also tasted like Tuscany. Most importantly, I was restored.
Meyer says, “We human beings so crave being restored and restoring, giving hospitality and receiving hospitality.” It’s true. After an extremely long day, a 10:30 bowl of pasta was the perfect restorative dish. Triginai was giving hospitality and I was grateful to be on the receiving end.
Note: When making this recipe, I took the liberty of adding Parmesan cheese to the recipe. This drives Trigiani crazy, and if you ask him about it, expect an emotional 20-minute retort on the horrors of cheese sprinkled on his dish. He is so adamant about it that if he walks into someone’s home and my cookbook is on the counter, he will go directly to the page listing Pasta Trigiani, and scratch out the cheese, while leaving a nasty note about the author’s inclusion of said cheese. It’s an excellent dish either way. Get ready to be restored.
1 gallon water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp minced fresh garlic
2 (2-ounce) cans anchovies, drained
1 pound dried angel hair pasta
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring the water and salt to a rolling boil in a large pot.
While the water is coming to a boil, warm the oil and garlic in a large skillet over very low heat, being very careful not to burn or color the garlic. Allow the oil and garlic to infuse for 10 minutes. Again, be very careful not to burn or even brown the garlic. If the garlic starts to brown, simply remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool for 3 to 4 minutes before returning to the heat.
Add the anchovies and steep for an additional 5 minutes (they will dissolve).
Cook the angel hair following the directions on the package. Set aside about a quarter-cup of the cooking water, then drain the angel hair.
Fold the red pepper, hot drained angel hair, 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water, and the cheese into the infused oil, combining thoroughly. Divide among 6 to 8 serving bowls.