We’re lying back on the living room couch, relaxed after a long work week when I turn to Juan, look him in the eye, and say with determined purpose – “Describe your ideal holiday.”
Juan shrugs his shoulders, and asks for some minutes to think.
Without skipping a beat, I say “I’ll go first then!” (It was that sort of a situation where you ask a question because you really want to answer it yourself, not so much because you want to hear a reply.)
It’s summer here in Argentina, and that usually means holidays are coming up. The year had passed by incredibly fast and now that Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner, it’s been hard to keep the topic of vacations far from my mind.
I prop my legs up on the coffee table, the one right in front of our balcony that overlooks the polo court.
Closing my eyes, I describe my dream thinking aloud, my loud clear voice filling our small two-room apartment.
“My perfect holiday would begin by waking up somewhere in the Mediterranean Coast, obviously in some small, quaint village in Italy (perhaps one among the five villages that make up Cinque Terre), the salty sea breeze greeting me buongiorno and the sound of the sea saying hello.”
Juan turns his head to look at me, arching an eyebrow. I’ve gone on and on about returning to Italy for the last six years since I first fell in love with the boot-shaped country and it’s a fantasy I’m desperate to fulfill.
I pay no attention to his arched eyebrows and “what’s new?” look. I continue, proudly narrating my dream, one that I’ve played out over and over again in the past few years.
“I’d have a quick brunch in a pretty garden decorated with rustic wooden tables and chairs, and then go for a walk to the beach, the one that has large wide stones instead of grainy sand; where I’d lay for a little while under the warm toasty sun, reading pages of an Italian cookbook.”
Juan cracks into a smile, indulging me in my self-declared fantasy. Encouraged, I go on, my eyes widening with glee.
“And you know what the best part of the day would be?” (This was obviously another theoretical question that I fully planned to ask and answer all by myself.) I carry on before Juan even has the chance to say a word.
“The best part would be heading to a ristorante perched on a cliff top, sitting by the open window with the view of the Mediterranean Sea next to me, and feasting on delicious fresh pasta, something simple but bursting with rich flavor.”
Almost everyone I know knows about my love for Italy, the country that swept me away over the course of a short two weeks – that sort of sweeping affair that leaves you forever wanting more.
And because it’s almost impossible to be so in love with a country and la dolce vita without also falling for its food, pasta has always been one of my favorite dishes, the kind that are easy to fall back upon because they almost never ever fail you.
For me, the perfect pasta dish is the sort that isn’t fully drenched in sauce. I like my pasta dry so I can see the strands being twisted around my fork, with a slight shine from the olive oil mixed into it.
I don’t need fancy ingredients for a plate of pasta to satisfy me; all that I need is two or three main ingredients, with tastes that complement yet individually stand out at the same time.
That, to me, is the beauty of pasta – a simple meal constructed with tastes and textures so delightful, that nothing elaborate is required to elevate a simple meal to one of absolute pleasure.
If you’re an onion lover just like me, you’ll find this dish an absolute winner.
While I love all ways of eating onions quite indiscriminately, caramelized onions somehow tend to manage to steal the first place. The tantalizing aroma of onions sautéed until a golden brown, and the taste of salty sweet never fails to whet my appetite.
And, if you’re a lover of bacon too, this adds a meaty dimension to the meal; something to take the dish up a couple of notches without making it overly heavy.
Mix the caramelized onions and pan-fried smoked bacon together with freshly cooked pasta, stir the ingredients well, and there you have your meal.
And because I’m a fan of garnishes, and green garnishes in particular, I always have some fresh herbs stashed away in a vase of water in my fridge (they last a lot longer this way, like flowers do). So I urge you to do this, it’s like the final touch to a beautiful painting or the strong close of a well-written essay.
Before eating, chop up some fresh chives or parsley or whatever other fresh herb strikes your fancy, sprinkle them over the hot pasta, and serve.Then eat your heart out.
CARAMELIZED ONION & BACON SPAGHETTI
(Serves 1 very hungry person or 2 small eaters)
1) 100g of spaghetti
2) 1 large onion, sliced thinly
3) 100g of smoked bacon, cut into small pieces
4) 1 tablespoons of roughly chopped fresh chives
5) Salt & pepper to taste
6) 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
1) Begin by cutting the smoked bacon in small pieces and sauteing the bacon in a pan, pushing it around with a wooden spoon every minute or so to prevent it from burning
2) Once bacon has achieved a nice reddish brown color, remove from pan in a slotted spoon, leaving behind the bacon oil
3) Saute sliced onion in bacon oil over medium heat until it turn a beautiful golden brown and starts to smell alluringly sweet (this is what caramelized onions smell like). Be careful not to let the onions burn but flipping them over once in a while.
4) While onions are cooking, cook spaghetti in a large pot of generously salted water according to packet instructions until al dente
5) Once spaghetti is cooked (you can tell by throwing a strand against the kitchen tile and it sticks), drain the water and drizzle a glug of olive oil over the cooked pasta to prevent the strands from sticking together
6) Return bacon to the pan once onions have been caramelized, and add cooked spaghetti
7) Mix the ingredients well until homogeneously spread out and add salt and pepper to taste
8) Serve pasta warm, garnished with chopped fresh chives