Friday Nights. They ain’t what they used to be! In my college years it meant a weekend of work, drinking, and hanging out with friends (and more drinking). During the time period when we had young children, it usually meant watching a movie at home after tucking the little ones into bed. Once we got to the middle and high school years, Friday nights turned into what I lovingly refer to as The Chauffeur Years. There were countless trips to and from friends’ houses, the school for basketball or football games, the movie theater, the mall. And of course the noise of friends spending the night, and the worry about what trouble they were getting into while I tried to doze. Friday nights were no longer mine.
Once the kids were of legal driving age, I no longer had to worry about being the chauffeur; instead I had the joy of worrying about whether or not they would get home safely, and what kinds of trouble they may be getting into. Granted, we were enjoying a new sort of freedom in which we enjoyed date nights without the kids at nice restaurants, and I could safely have a cocktail or two at home because I wouldn’t have to go pick up anyone for a ride.
But then the Empty Nest years hit. Friday nights are mine, all mine! I can do whatever I want. I can go out with friends, I can act crazy, I can go out to dinner anywhere anytime. I can watch TV in my underwear and drink a bottle of wine. I do all of these things, but usually I stay home and watch TV in my pajamas, do a load of laundry, peruse the Internet, read, and go to bed. The nights of meeting up with friends for a night of dancing at Johnny’s are few and far between (they happen, just not often!).
I’m halfway to 94 years old, and so totally exciting.
Last Friday night was one of those stay-at-home nights. We had just returned from a week in Mexico, so we were getting back into the swing of things. We spent a lot of money and dined out every meal for 7 days so I didn’t even feel like going out to dinner. I just wanted to stay at home. I like my home. It’s cozy and quiet with a well-stocked kitchen and bar. And I can cuddle with my dog on the couch. Additionally, the hubs was sick, returning from south of the border with some weird intestinal bug of some sort, so I was solo for dinner.
Since it was just me, I took the opportunity to fix something that my husband doesn’t eat – plain ol’ pasta! I have a love affair with pasta, however I eat it considerably less often due to the fact that my husband avoids gluten. So, when I do eat pasta, it’s either the gluten free stuff, or the real stuff; and when it’s the real stuff, I thoroughly enjoy it.
My absolute favorite way to eat pasta is nearly plain. I like a teensy bit of olive oil, some pepper, and some parmesan, aka Pasta Cacio e Pepe. It may sound boring, but if you use a good quality pasta and real Italian parmigiana and a nice, light tasting extra virgin olive oil, the flavors of the pasta come through and you’ll wonder why you usually douse it in loads of tomato sauce. I happened to have a package of Trader Joe’s pappardelle on hand, which cooks up nicely with a good texture and flavor. I also decided to jazz mine up a little bit this time with some sautéed yellow onion, and a squeeze of lemon, some capers, a little parsley, and a pinch of crushed red pepper for some spice. My recipe is below; it may not be a “traditional” version, but it’s tasty, simple, and I like it.
Then I slipped on my favorite Pretty You London slippers, popped open a bottle of La Marca prosecco, and spent the remainder of the evening binge watching The Crown on Netflix, with my iPad open to Wikipedia so I could look up characters and events while I watched (nerd alert – I like to make sure I fully understand what’s going on, and determine what’s real and what may be fiction).
Cheers to middle age!
Theresa’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe with Lemon and Capers
1 8-oz. package of Trader Joe’s Pappardelle Pasta
1/4 cup sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons capers, drained
lemon wedge, and a teaspoon of lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta according to package instructions, cooking to al dente (don’t over cook). While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet just until golden brown. Remove from heat. Remove the cooked pasta from the water using a pasta claw or tongs (don’t dump it into a colander!) and place into the skillet with the cooked onion. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the pasta, sprinkle the red pepper parsley, garlic, black pepper, and capers over the pasta, and gently toss to coat evenly. Turn the heat to low to allow the oil and pasta to heat through, gently tossing it, for about 30-60 seconds. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and the parmesan cheese and serve with a nice crusty bread (and a glass of wine!).