I did not mean to leave you hanging that long. In fact, I had this post stashed right up my sleeve, but then in a serious case of First World Problemitis, the other camera, the camera with which I took these photos, well, it lives with Max in Kassel, not with me in Berlin, and because he is a PC person and I am a Mac person I could not for the life of me figure out the instructions that he kept emailing me about unzipping the files of the photos he sent me and so I kept bleating, per email, back at him to just send me the photos as regular files already and he kept writing back to me asking me to download yet another program from the Internet to unzip the aforementioned files and I definitely didn't want to write a post without photos because who cares about unillustrated blog posts anyway and for Pete's sake I have standards and then he forgot his camera in Kassel when he came home this weekend and oh my goodness, are you still reading this? Seriously? Because I'm falling asleep over here and I'm the one who's typing!
All of this is to say I'm sorry it took me so long to write again. But look! I brought you spaghetti! With fresh tomatoes and basil and squidgy-soft mozzarella! I hope that makes up for something at least.
This is the kind of thing you want to make when you don't really feel like cooking anything at all, which, I find, is the way I feel all the way through July and sometimes August, too. Maybe it's too hot to cook or it's too hot to eat or maybe you simply have better things to do with your time than stand around in the kitchen, like canoeing down soft little rivers or picking sour cherries or drinking beer in outdoor cafés until the sun goes down or writing a freaking book, but since you can hardly subsist on popsicles or beer nuts alone (actually, you can, but perhaps your family cannot), if you can bring yourself to boil a pot of water for pasta you've basically done most of the work.
The rest involves dicing up a bunch of very good tomatoes, that very being italicized for a reason as your tomatoes should practically glow with flavor and burst with juice, slicing garlic (the original recipe has you dice the garlic finely, but I don't like raw garlic and never will, so I slice it, leaving it big enough for your fork to avoid, but by all means, do as you wish, because I do not choose to impose my tyranny against raw garlic against anyone, well, except for one particular individual whose mouth I like to get close to at times), and snip a whole mess of basil into a bowlful of olive oil.
This you can do first thing in the morning before you go to work, leaving it to macerate all day while you go and do whatever it is that you all do. (What is it you all do, anyway? Really. Doctors, secretaries, grant writers, students, anthropologists, mothers, who are you? Tell me below in the comments!) When you come home in the evening, all you have to do is boil your pasta and dinner is served. If you are, like me, a little more of the last-minute type, rest easy knowing that even if you don't manage to do this chopping, macerating business until two hours before dinner, you're still in pretty good shape.
The original recipe has you marinate the basil and garlic in olive oil all day long, adding the tomatoes only a few hours before dinnertime. But instead I mixed together everything at once, two hours before dinner, and went out to take a walk in these improbably beautiful fields on the very edge of Kassel. One minute you're still in the rather unlovely town of Kassel, the next you're staring at a mass of poppies in a field of wheat stalks and there is a lone horse in one corner and an allee of oak trees in another and you suddenly have the very distinct impression you are on the set of an avant-garde French film.
Once you've boiled the spaghetti and drained it and plopped it on top of your cubed, fragrant tomatoes, you chop up a ball of mozzarella (plain old cow's milk is fine) and put that on top of the hot spaghetti. The original recipe says that if you leave it to sit for a bit, the mozzarella will melt and fat will coat each strand of spaghetti. To be honest, we didn't have that kind of patience. I let the mozzarella start to melt, but we were so hungry at that point that we just dove right in, before any milk fat could coat a single strand.
Now, before there are any, uh, misunderstandings, let me be quite clear: this pasta dish would be a definite no-go in Italy. Italians are, well, let's say earnest about their spaghetti sauces and they have rules about food and they do not take kindly to mucked-up sauces or pasta salads or other abominations (their imagined words, not mine!), in fact, they can be are positively Germanic in their obsessiveness with following food rules.
Yawn. Still with me?
Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let me just say that this is a delightful plate of spaghetti and that it had both of us tipping our pasta plates into our mouths so we could get every last drop of milky, basil-flavored, tomato-juice-tinged, garlic-imbued olive oil sauce down our greedy gullets. It was delicious. And refreshing, if you can believe it, and light and sort of exactly the kind of thing you'd want to eat on a nice summer's evening.
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup of good-quality olive oil
12 basil leaves
4 ripe tomatoes
1 ball imported mozzarella
1. Take out your largest bowl. Add the garlic. Pour in the olive oil. Snip the basil leaves with scissors into shreds over the garlic mixture or slice thinly with a very sharp knife. Let sit all day or at least an hour or two.
2. About 2 hours before serving, chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl.
3. When you’re ready to eat, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, cut the mozzarella into small cubes.
4. Drain the pasta and pour it on top of the tomato mixture. Do not stir. Spread the mozzarella on top of the pasta and toss only the pasta and cheese; the cheese will soften slightly, and the pasta will get coated with fat. Then stir up from the bottom, incorporating the tomato mixture. Season to taste and serve.