Sometimes it’s best not to complicate matters.
Even though I am well aware of this principle, I’ve never been the kind of gal who naturally embraces “simple”: no scoop of vanilla ice cream for me when double-fudge-cookie-cream-caramel-swirl exists in the world; no blue wooly socks if I can wear my favorite pair emblazoned with frolicking brown and green puppies; no simple sentence when a complex, adjective-crammed, three-clause phrasing can be used instead.
In terms of this particular trait, the HH and I are polar opposites. Unlike me, he invariably takes the path of least complication. In fact, he’s frequently reminding me that, in his opinon, I tend to overcomplicate matters.
Scene One: I’m worried about Elsie. Just look at her! She’s terribly lethargic, sleeping on her pillow all afternoon. She didn’t even come into the kitchen when I started baking. Could she be sick? Maybe we should take her to the vet. Maybe she’s got Distemper! Or Lyme Disease! We have to go to the after-hours emergency clinic! RIGHT NOW!!
HH: “Sweetheart, please don’t overcomplicate this. Elsie’s just tired, that’s all. I took them for an hour-long walk along the trail this afternoon. She swam and she ran for an hour. See? Chaser’s exactly the same way.”
Me: “Oh. Yeah.”
Scene Two: I’m sure my sister is mad at me. I mean, she got off the phone so abruptly, and she didn’t even ask about The Girls. She definitely sounded upset. Hmmn. What on earth did I do to offend her this time? Hooboy. Now I’m going to have to apologize for some slight I can’t even remember committing. . .
HH: “Honey, you don’t need to overcomplicate this. She probably had a bad day at work and just doesn’t feel like talking about it. Didn’t she have some big meeting coming up. . .?”
Me: “Oh. Yeah. Now I remember. . . she had to fire someone today and felt terrible doing it. Oh, gee, I guess I should have asked her about it. . . “.
Scene Three: That HH is so infuriating! Why won’t he tell me what he’s really thinking? He just won’t share. Men are so emotionally stunted! They are so out of touch with their feelings! All I asked was a simple question, and he can’t even give me a straight answer. . .!
HH: “Ricki. Please. Do not overcomplicte this. I really meant it when I said that I have no preference. I don’t care whether you wear the flats or the heels. Please, just pick one. We’re going to be late for the wedding.”
Hmmm. Okay. I see his point.
Thankfully, when it comes to cooking, we are in perfect agreement: the less complicated, the better. And this pasta dish fits the bill beautifully.
When I’m looking for something to whip up on weeknights if we’re headed out after dinner and need something pronto; or for indolent Sunday evenings when we’ve spent the weekend engaged in errands or household chores and feel too lazy for anything more elaborate, I turn to this pasta. It’s proof positive that sometimes, indeed, simple is best.
The recipe, I’ve discovered, is a slight variation on a standard Italian pasta dish: spaghetti or linguine tossed with roasted red peppers, garlic, and a bit of chili. The combination of sweet (the peppers), hot (the chilis), and pungent (the garlic) is truly inspired. My handwritten version was jotted on a piece of scrap paper several years ago, and I no longer recall the original source; but since I’ve adapted it to our tastes here in the DDD household, I’m setting this down as my own adaptation.
And the preparation, as promised, is truly simple: the final product is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. You can create any number of variations on the base recipe by adding your own choice of dense protein (the HH likes sausage and parmesan cheese; I like chopped or ground almonds, or nutritional yeast).
Spicy Red Pepper Pasta
Simplicity itself is transformed into a satisfying, filling dinner in this pasta. You can use either fresh or jarred peppers here; I prefer a combination of both for the different textures and levels of sweeteness.
1 pkg. (about 350 grams) long, thin pasta (Zeroodles would work great in this)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 red peppers, either fresh or roasted and jarred (the ideal mix, I’ve found, is 2 of each), cut in long strips
4-6 cloves garlic (or more, if you like), coarsely chopped
1 tsp. chili flakes
other toppers of your choice: parmesan cheese, chopped or ground nuts, faux cheese, etc.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. If it’s ready before the pepper mixture, drain, reserving about 1/4 cup liquid; cover, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and fresh peppers (however many you’re using), and cook until the garlic begins to brown and the peppers are wilted. Sprinkle with the chilis and stir to combine. If using prepared roasted peppers, add them now, and mix together.
Once the pasta is ready, add it along with the 1/4 cup water to the pepper pot (always wanted to say that!). Toss until the pasta is coated with the garlicy oil and the peppers are well distributed. Stir in your optional extras and transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle with more cheese or nutritional yeast, if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.
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