“Noodles with butter, please!” My 3-year-old niece Vaila and I chime in unison. Cue eye roll from my brother Justin (directed at me, of course).
It is a widely-known fact that I eat noodles with butter at least once a week, usually more if I’m being honest. OK, at least three times a week. You happy?
It’s my go-to meal of choice. Oh, are we celebrating? Noodles with butter. Rough day? Noodles with butter. And I have no shame – I will order it in a restaurant and chastise the kitchen if they don’t get it right (are we not past garnishing EVERYTHING with parsley?)
I wish I could tell you that my love of buttery noodles evokes some early childhood memory of being in the kitchen with a beloved family member, but that’s just not the case. This particular love affair started much later in life – about three years ago. It wasn’t love at first sight. But it was definitely love. I grew to appreciate how steady this meal is. It never lets you down. And chances are, you always have what you need on hand to whip it up.
But I’m not alone. You wouldn’t believe how many recipes there are for what one would assume is a pretty straightforward application of the two obvious key ingredients: noodles and butter. And before you get all uppity with me and start throwing around heavyweights like parmesan and lemon zest – I should point out that I am a purist. Noodles and butter. That’s it. Pure and simple comfort food.
So at 8:30 last night, after wandering my local Whole Foods market for what seemed like an eternity, after having worked what felt like the longest day ever, I was in desperate need of inspiration. I know what you’re thinking. And believe me, I was too. Noodles and butter had been on my mind since noon. I was just feeling guilty, having eaten it twice already this week. So I picked up a few random veggies (sweet local corn, pattypan squash, heirloom tomatoes and some beautifully, fragrant basil) to ease my conscience, and practically skipped home, already tasting the chewy, salty buttery noodles slide down my throat.
But then once I got home, something strange happened. I was putting away my groceries (since I clearly wasn’t intending to include them in my dinner that night) when a lonely sweet onion caught my eye. It looked so sad sitting in the crisper. So I whipped it out, sliced it up, threw it in a pan with some olive oil, and started it on its way to caramelized glory.
Feeling inspired, I peered warily into my bag of heirloom tomatoes. Next thing I knew I was slicing into the perfumed, meaty gems of summer perfection and adding them to the pan. Then almost rapid-fire went in the pattypan squash and a few handfuls of the fresh, juicy sweet corn that was practically bursting as I shaved it off the cob.
As I stood back to examine my handiwork, eyeing the pan suspiciously, I was still not convinced. This would be a SIDE dish, I told myself. No mixing. But you can probably tell what happened next…
First it was the rich, creamy butter, cautiously sliding into the pan to join the ensemble, then the cracked pepper, lemon zest, and of course a few impetuous handfuls of the most finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and julienned basil.
The aroma was intoxicating. A combination of the caramelized onions, sweet luscious corn, licorice-scented basil, and the succulent tomatoes. I was done for. Will power, or whatever you want to call it, gone. In, without another second of hesitation, went my (up until that point) unadulterated noodles. And I didn’t feel an ounce of regret. A few glugs of pasta water, and the sauce had reached perfection.
It was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed every last bite. I had leftovers and ate them for lunch today, and I wasn’t disappointed – it was almost better today. (Hey, STOP that. Stop counting how many pasta servings that’s been for me this week.)
There is no recipe here. There is no lesson on how my tastes have matured, or how my noodle portfolio has expanded, or how I have reformed my ways and eat noodles less often. It’s just a simple tale of how a few humble ingredients can bring such immense pleasure, time and time again.
Superman had his. I have mine. What’s yours?
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