Bored? Host a Virtual Cooking Party, Because Pasta is NOT Canceled
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Bored? Host a Virtual Cooking Party, Because Pasta is NOT Canceled

When the going gets tough, the tough get cooking

Bored? Host a Virtual Cooking Party, Because Pasta is NOT Canceled

There's no sugarcoating it: This whole quarantine thing kind of sucks. Just when the weather starts warming up, and everyone starts to get the urge to meet up for lunch on a sunny patio, the CDC tells us to stay inside OR ELSE. Oh, and you aren't allowed to be around people and restaurants have to close their dining rooms, which means even going out to lunch alone isn't an option either.

So, what's a socially-deprived twenty-something with little to no cooking experience to do at a time like this? Not starve, but not survive off of Easy Mac and Ramen Noodles, either.

Instead, I highly recommend you take this time to learn a new skill or two. Allow me to make a useful suggestion: Select one of the many amazing recipes available on "Meal and Spiel" author Elana Horwich's website and invite your friends to a virtual cooking party. You get food and socialization, and the CDC won't be knocking at your door to shut the party down! Everybody wins!

And if you want to take this time for yourself, that's okay too. Self-care takes many forms, and pasta is definitely one of them. Since this recipe is easy enough for even the most beginner chefs and tasty enough to satisfy even the pickiest palates, you're sure to find some happiness in the warm meal you've made.

What are you waiting for? Hit up the group chat with some of these ideas, and you'll all be pros at this social distancing thing in no time. Cooking alone? Never fear, Elana is hosting a series of virtual classes just for you!


How To Whip Up Pasta From Anything

(Like The Italians Do) In Your College Kitchen

Whenever I tell Italians that I teach the aglio-olioprocess, a culinary secret that will change your college cooking lives, they always chuckle. "Ma di che!" Who cares, they say. "Everyone knows the aglio-olioprocess."

"No they don't!" I retort. "Nobody in America has any idea what it is!"

Now you will. And it will mean that you too will be able to whip up a plate of pasta from whatever you have lying around.

Here's the secret:

Ninety percent of pasta sauces that Italians whip up every day of the week all start in the exact same way: Aglio, Olio, Peperoncino. Garlic. Olive Oil. Red Pepper Flakes. In short it is called simply, aglio-olio.

John Schell

The basic principle of the aglio-olio process:

We are flavoring olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes. This flavored olive oil will then flavor the other ingredients that we put into the pan to make the sauce. It's that simple.

Here is how it works:

  1. Put a wide bottomed pan over medium heat.
  2. Add olive oil to generously coat the pan.
  3. Add garlic to the pan. Anticipate two large cloves per sauce for 4 people, left whole.
  4. Add either conservative or generous "pinch" of red pepper flakes. Do not actually touch the chili flakes with your fingers less you might burn another part of your body later. ;)
  5. Watch the little bubbles form around the garlic.This is the garlic infusing its flavor into the olive oil. Do not grab your phone. Stay present.
  6. Lift the pan to an angle so the garlic is fully submerged in the oil.
  8. Add your sauce ingredients into the aglio-olio mixture. You are now letting your primary pasta sauce ingredients- tomatoes, mushroom, or kale, etc get flavored by the delicious garlic-red-pepper-scented olive oil you have just created. Stir your ingredients with love into the oil.
  9. Add salt. Now add a touch more. Come on, be generous. You are becoming an Italian. Stir. (Use kosher salt for best flavor.)
  10. Let your sauce cook until it is done. Timing will depend on the ingredients. See recipes to follow. In general you want there to be just enough liquid to coat noodles but not too much to have watery pasta.
    1. What about the garlic? You will have a few whole pieces in your sauce. I leave it in there and pick around it on the plate, some people like to eat it. If you want, remove it.
  11. Toss it over a lively flame. As soon as your pasta is cooked al dente*, drain it and throw into the sauce over a medium high flame, a fuoco vivace. Toss it all around until evenly coated in sauce and serve immediately.


Aglio Olio


Aglio olio isn't just a life-changing process, it's also the recipe Italians make when they have nothing in the house to eat—nothing, of course, but spaghetti, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt. (Those staples are the Italian equivalent of ketchup in the door of the fridge.)

Because it requires so little prep and so few ingredients, Aglio Olio is also the go-to, 4 a.m. binge food after a night at the discoteca. If you add enough peperoncino, it helps you sweat out the alcohol.

Serves 2 to 3

●1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

●2 garlic cloves

●1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

●Kosher salt (See Note)

●1⁄2 pound spaghetti or gluten-free spaghetti

●Chopped flat-leaf parsley

●Grated Pecorino Romano, optional

  1. Place a medium pan over medium heat and let it get hot for a few minutes.
  2. Add the olive oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes, in that order.
  3. Let the garlic infuse its flavor into the olive oil for a few minutes. Watch the bubbles. Don't let the garlic burn. As it just begins to take a faint golden hue, remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Throw in a generous handful of kosher salt (See Note), followed by the pasta. Stir, and cook al dente.
  5. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce over medium-high heat. Toss until all of the noodles are coated in the flavored oil. Adjust the seasoning to your taste by adding more salt or more red pepper flakes, for example.
  6. Top with the parsley and cheese, if using.

Note: Because this "sauce" doesn't have any salt in it, you will need to add more salt to the pasta water. That's right, more than the normal handful you add. Trust me. Remember, this is all practice until you get it right.

Penne al Pomodoro


Adding cherry tomatoes and basil to your aglio olio base is so simple, yet so good that it will become one of your absolute go-to's. In my class, this is the recipe that makes people say, "Wow, this is better than at a restaurant!" Of course it's better than at a restaurant! Home- cooked food, made in small quantities, with love, and eaten as soon as it's ready, should always be better than a restaurant's. Restaurant prep cooks can't add the love you can. They're at work.

You'll notice that I throw the basil leaves in whole, with the stems attached. It's the easiest way to get great flavor.

This recipe serves 2 to 3 people, so you can practice with a smaller portion. But feel free to double it to serve more or hungrier people.

Serves 2 to 3

●1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

●2 large garlic cloves

●1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

●1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

●2 large sprigs of basil leaves

●1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water

●1⁄2 pound penne rigate or gluten-free penne

●Grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish

  1. Place a medium pan over medium heat and let it get hot for a few minutes.
  2. Add the olive oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes, in that order.
  3. Let the garlic infuse its flavor into the olive oil. Watch the bubbles. Don't let the garlic burn.
  4. Once the garlic has just taken on a slightly golden color, add the tomatoes and stir. Throw in the basil, stems and all. Add salt and stir. Let the tomatoes cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. When soft enough, smush the tomatoes down with a fork or with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste the sauce. If you want more flavor, add more salt.
  6. Once you can swipe your spoon across the bottom of the pan and it "parts like the Red Sea" for a moment before oozing its way back to the center, you are done. If you want it to be a little thicker, cook for a few minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Throw in a handful of kosher salt, followed by the pasta. Stir, and cook al dente.
  8. When the pasta is nearly done, turn the heat under the sauce to medium high, a fuoco vivace, a lively flame.
  9. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Toss until all the noodles are coated in the sauce.
  10. Serve and top with the grated Parmigiano.

Brown Rice Spaghetti al Cavolo Nero

Though kale is more commonly known as a staple of the California vegan hippy diet, the darker, flat leaf variety is actually a favorite ingredient unique to Tuscan cooking. It is called cavolo nero, which literally translates to "black cabbage."( Sounds like a heavy metal band for the plant-based! ) I love to make it with a good brown rice pasta so I can invite both my discerning Italian friends and my picky health-nut peeps over to the same dinner party. Everybody is happy and feels loved by the food.

Serves 4

●1 bunch lacinato or dinosaur kale (dark flat leaf, not the curly one)

●extra virgin olive oil - about ¼ cup

●2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with side of knife

●½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, will depend how spicy they are

●1 large anchovy fillet, preserved in salt or oil

●1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for pasta water

●½ cup water

●pecorino romano

●fresh ground black pepper, optional

●350 grams brown rice spaghetti (Tinkyada brand is my favorite)

  1. Wash the kale and cut off the thick bottom part of the bunch - the bottom 4 inches at least.
  2. Slice the rest of the bunch thinly, about 1/4 inch thick or so, and then cut the whole thing in half down the center so each piece is only half as long.
  3. Cut the anchovy into tiny bits and set aside.
  4. Set a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Take the side of a kitchen knife and smash the garlic down on a cutting board until the clove splits a bit and the skin is easy to peel off.
  5. Pour enough olive oil to cover base of skillet, about 1/4 cup, and drop in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Notice as the garlic lightly bubbles…it is infusing the olive oil with its flavor. (Make sure it does not burn, as this will add a bitter flavor to your whole dish.)
  6. Add the anchovy to the pan, stirring it so it dissolves in the oil.
  7. Just as the garlic begins to become translucent and slightly golden brown, toss the kale into the oil, with tongs if you have them, until it is all coated.
  8. Let the kale sauté for a couple minutes and then add the salt and a ½ cup water. Turn heat to low and cover.
  9. Cook for about 20 minutes or until kale is very dark and very soft, falling apart in your mouth when you taste it, checking on it every so often to make sure it does not burn. If it looks dry add a bit more water.
  10. Cook pasta al dente and strain.
  11. Immediately add pasta to the skillet with the kale, turning up heat to a fuoco vivace, a lively flame, medium-high. Toss the pasta using tongs or two forks until all the spaghetti have been mixed into the "sauce."
  12. Divide onto plates, generously grater pecorino romano and freshly ground pepper on each one.
  13. A tavola, to the table!

And if these recipes appeal to you, make sure to grab a copy of Elana's cookbook, Meal and Spiel. For a limited time only, you can now order a signed copy from and receive an additional 20% off! Just enter the code KITCHENBADASS20 at checkout. Orders are being shipped out every day of the week, so it's time to get while the going's good, folks!

Stay hungry and stay healthy!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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