You know that feeling when you make it to the end of the week, your grocery supply is depleted and the thought of going to the store or consuming any of your usual fare is met with zero enthusiasm from any party involved? That’s where Jared and I were by the end of last week. Our cupboards were bare, nothing sounded good and, to be perfectly honest, I just had no interest whatsoever in standing over a hot stove. I’m embarrassed to say that not once, but twice in an eight-day span of time, we both looked at each other with expressions that could only mean one thing. Pizza? Yes, let’s do pizza.
But then a beautiful event occurred Friday night that turned everything around. The wise Sir Netflix (Yes, Netflix is a boy. And yes, he was knighted.) sent us the movie Mostly Martha. Have you heard of it? It’s actually been sitting in our queue for more than a year and a half and only made it our way because we forgot to update the No. 1 spot when we sent back our last movie (which was New Moon. Womp, womp.). Anyway, Mostly Martha is a German flick about an uptight, no-funny-business chef named Martha who takes in her newly orphaned niece and starts to rethink her life, both at home and in the kitchen, as everything starts to hit the fan. We enjoyed it quite a bit actually, and if you’re in the mood for a foreign film with good eats and an adorable 8-year-old girl who pronounces Martha as “Marta,” then I highly recommend it. But the quality of the movie and “Marta” were not what turned around our moods. It was the pasta — the pounds of fresh pasta that Martha and her kitchen staff ate throughout the movie, mounded in oversized bowls and spun in perfect circles around fast-moving forks.
What was especially appealing about the pasta in the movie was how elegantly simplistic it always appeared. There were no heavy sauces, additional meats or complicated recipes — just pasta, a bit of oil, maybe a few added vegetables and a handful of herbs. As it so happens, such a blueprint for pasta is highly useful for the couple with a near-empty pantry, and our adaptation of this simple recipe found on Food52 made use of the last few kitchen staples we had. With little more than dried pasta, panko breadcrumbs, garlic and spinach, we had a delicious, no-fuss meal that felt infinitely more special than its prep time implied. I think even “Marta” would approve.
Pasta with Breadcrumbs and Spinach
Adapted from Hotplate Gourmet on Food52.com
• ½ pound thin spaghetti
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• ½ to ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
• ½ cup olive oil
• 8 ounces baby spinach
• 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cook pasta according to package instructions in a pot of salted boiling water. Heat ¼ cup of oil in a large skillet, and add the breadcrumbs. Once the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Add the garlic, and continue to stir until well toasted. Transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl, then return skillet to the heat.
Add the spinach to the pan with a little bit of the pasta water and crushed red pepper, and sauté it quickly. Once the spinach is finished, toss it with the breadcrumbs and the drained pasta, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the rest of the oil as needed, mix in parmesan, and serve.
Have you watched or read something lately that sent you to the kitchen? Ever been caught in a kitchen rut? What dish got you out? Can’t wait to hear about it!