Published in the March 2013 issue of Esquire.Pasta Bowl
How to Make Shane Solomon's Spaghetti with Butter and Parm
Pizzeria Stella, Philadelphia
This dish is not about coating spaghetti with sauce. It's about incorporating the two - letting the starch from the pasta enrich the sauce and the sauce soak into the pasta - by building a layered skillet sauce and finishing the cooking of the spaghetti right there in the same pan.
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Use about half a box pasta or so for two people. Cook in abundantly salted water (imagine you're creating ocean water) until al dente: still firm to the tooth without being floury. (Use tongs to pull a strand out and taste it.)
Meanwhile, in a 9-inch skillet, warm a shallow pool of good-tasting olive oil (about 3 tbsp) and sweat some thinly sliced garlic (about 1 tbsp). Add a pinch red-pepper flakes. The goal is to release the flavor of the garlic without browning it [fig. 1]. As soon as you get a whiff of garlic, pull the skillet off the flame.
When the pasta is done, use tongs to transfer it directly into the warm skillet [fig. 2]; reserve the salted water. Return skillet to moderate heat and stir well to coat pasta with the infused oil.
Now begin adding the warm pasta cooking water while you shake the pan back and forth - maybe a 1/4 cup at a time, only enough to keep the pasta moving. Continue to toss and stir the pasta, adding cooking water as needed, and allow the noodles to finish cooking in the skillet sauce [fig. 3]. Over time, you'll learn when the spaghetti "sounds right." As you shake the pan back and forth, flipping the pasta over on itself, the noodles should slap the pan with a plop, signifying that you have a heavy, slick sauce. When the pasta is too dry, it won't make this sound.
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Add ground black pepper (as much as you would use on a salad) and about 1 tbsp room-temperature unsalted butter, and keep the pan moving. When the noodles are slick with sauce, add a small handful grated Parmesan (about 1/4 cup, if you're measuring) and a bit more olive oil - maybe 2 tbsp. Twirl the noodles onto a serving plate and sprinkle with more grated Parmesan and some chopped parsley.
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