Crying in your pasta
Crying spaghetti is the bomb, reports a friend, home from Seattle. Obviously. Who can resist a name like that?
Why, I worried, would spaghetti cry? Was it heartbreak, like the 1964 song “The Crying Game”? Was it the Troubles, like the 1992 movie “The Crying Game”? Or heartbreak, like the 2014 song “The Crying Game”? Cause for concern.
Possibly misplaced. Maybe the dish celebrated the Flying Spaghetti Monster, deity of a recently made-up religion. I relished the idea of slurping spaghetti while wearing an upside-down colander, in the style of the Pastafarians. Not flying, my friend corrected, crying.
I checked the source, the menu of a restaurant called The London Plane. The noodles, bolstered with browned lamb and brightened with fresh lime, seemed to be crying from a surfeit of red peppers — much like the Thai beef dish, crying tiger. Crying spaghetti, I noted, lacks spaghetti.
Inspiration enough to compile a made-up version. This one twirls crisp hazelnuts, fresh herbs and spicy pepper paste into a heap of bucatini. Ample reason for happy tears.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 6 servings
1 cup hazelnuts without skins
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons Thai red pepper paste (fermented or roasted)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound bucatini
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup each, coarsely chopped fresh: mint, cilantro, basil
Roast: Roll nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and roast until golden and fragrant, shaking once or twice, about 8 minutes. Coarsely chop. (A food processor cuts down on fugitives.)
Brown: Heat oil in a wide skillet over medium-high. Drop in lamb and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until just browned, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a colander to drain off fat. Return meat to the skillet. Lower heat to medium. Stir in garlic, pepper paste, tomato paste, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, 1 minute.
Boil: In a large pot, cook pasta in salted water until tender but firm. Scoop out 1 cup cooking water. Drain pasta.
Combine: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add lime juice and 3 tablespoons of the cooking water. Boil, 1 minute. Add nuts. Cook, 30 seconds.
Serve: Toss hazelnut sauce with cooked pasta. Add lamb and toss. Add herbs and toss. Taste for salt. If pasta looks dry, add a little more of the reserved cooking water. Enjoy.
Provenance: Vaguely inspired by The London Plane restaurant, Seattle.