Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Late Night Fried Spaghetti" from a Book Review of "Starting From Scratch"

On the day she passes her dissertation defense, Olivia Tschetter's mother, the only member of her family who knew she was defending, passes away suddenly. Faced with grieving for her mother, Olivia doesn't tell anyone she has passed, even though her father, brother and sisters keep nagging her about it. Rather than go back to school to finish up, Olivia hides herself in her mother's kitchen, cooking from her old recipes, trying to finish the current edition of her mother's popular cooking newsletter and solving the mystery of a family secret. "Starting From Scratch" is the debut novel of Susan Gilbert-Collins, and it is an engaging story of loss and grief, the solace of the kitchen, and finding ones own way being the youngest in a family of academic overachievers.

Sprinkled throughout the book are a few Tschetter family recipes, including Olivia's recipe for a grad school favorite, "Late Night Spaghetti."

Late Night Fried Spaghetti
From "Starting From Scratch" by Susan Gilbert Collins
("Serves 2-3 hungry grad students as a main dish")

"It's fast, it's delicious, and it only uses one pan: perfect for graduate students and other busy people. Don't slip the capers."

aprox. 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, squashed and minced
1/2 lb uncooked spaghetti or vermicelli (go with imported)
1 1/2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can plum tomatoes, chopped with juice
at least 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 Tbsp drained capers
hot red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet. Saute onions and garlic until soft, about five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the last Tbsp olive oil to skillet and heat. If skillet isn't large enough to hold unbroken spaghetti (mine isn't), break the raw spaghetti in two. Place spaghetti in skillet. Saute for about five minutes, shaking the pan and stirring constantly, until some of the spaghetti strands start to brown lightly.

Add the onions and garlic, water, tomatoes (with juice), olives, capers, and red pepper flakes to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 12 minutes for spaghetti, eight or nine for vermicelli, stirring occasionally and checking for doneness. (Pasta should be tender but firm.) Toss in basil when spaghetti is almost done. (If using dried, add at the same time as other seasonings.) Serve with grated Parmesan.

Notes/Results: Well, it wasn't late night when I made it, and I am not a grad student, but this was still a tasty, satisfying dish with lots of flavor. It is nice that it cooks in one pan and of course it had me convinced to make it at the mere mention of capers. ;-) I added extra garlic and may have been a bit heavy-handed with the red pepper flakes, as it was pretty spicy--but in a good way. Although a dish that can be made from pantry items, the fresh basil from my herb garden added a nice touch so I would highly recommend using it over dried. A glass of wine and a simple green salad made a tasty dinner, and the leftovers tasted great the next day. Good comfort food fare, I would make this again.


  1. Fun read and fun pasta! After my next late night, I'll for sure be making this. And yeah, you would have had ME at capers also.

  2. Starting from Scratch sounds like a great read Deb! I think we can all relate to finding solace in the kitchen in one way or another.

    I like the idea of toasting the noodles, which is something I've never done but always wanted to try. Looks delicious for anytime of day.

  3. Interesting cooking method and I love that it's one pot. When I want quick and easy, I tend to go for a pasta toss type of dish. But then clean-up is an issue: pot to boil pasta, colander to drain, pan for the other ingredients. This one looks like a winner all around!

  4. Sounds like a book I'd enjoy (I know I'd love the pasta!).

  5. your pasta looks so colorful and delicious!

  6. Oh wow - so you treat it almost like a risotto? Yum!

  7. Sounds like a great foodie novel. I'll have to add this to my wanna read list.

    Hey, I'm working up a post on some super fabulous eggplant and zucchini paninis that I was thinking about sending over to Souper Sundays, but they don't use bread, so I'm wondering if a sandwich of veggies smooshed together with luscious melted cheese counts as a sammie?

  8. Yum, looks delicious! Late night or any time. ☺

  9. The book sounds really good! And the pasta too. I love that it cooks right in the sauce - it must be packed with flavor.

  10. Joanne--Yep, the capers win me over every time! ;-)

    Kim--It is a good book. This is the first time I toasted spaghetti noodles too. ;-)


    MM--this one is a pretty easy clean up and lots of flavor. ;-)

    Arlene--Thanks! both are good!


    Foodycat--yes, although less time, broth and stirring! ;-)

    Rachel--for sure it works, send it over! ;-)


    Reeni--It is very flavorful and pretty spicy too--at least mine was. ;-)

  11. looks great and that book sounds so heart felt

  12. That sounds like a good yarn! Love this pasta dish too - all my favourite things in there - got any left?

  13. How fun! And of course it sounds like a book I'd love to read! Good to know it doesn't have to be late night...and that I don't have to be a grad enjoy it ;) ...cuz it looks delicious!

  14. Rebecca--it is a poignant story but it has it's humorous moments too. ;-)

    Sue--I am almost done--it is great as leftovers too.

    girlichef--no grad degree required--it is an equal-opportunity dish! ;-)

  15. Wonderful post! Beautiful pics!!
    I adore pasta, thanks for this delicious recipe!

  16. Healthy Mama--thank you! It is a fast and fun dish--hope you enjoy it. ;-)


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