Silly season

It’s August and if you’re not on holiday, I’ll bet that half your office is. These few weeks in August were once known as ‘silly season’ in the halcyon days before Brexit, the latest Labour leadership contest and what appears to be an impending WW3. This is when things (usually) slow down a bit at work and you actually have time to take your lunch hour.

I’ve just come back from Valencia where I ate my own body weight in pan con tomate, olives, melon – and pasta. I also read a lot, and my favourite book of the holiday was Heartburn by the late, great Nora Ephron. This is Nora’s semi-autobiographical novel about a food writer whose marriage is falling apart. Sounds sad, which it is, but despite this (and the terrible, terrible front cover – of my copy, anyway), it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, includes some handy recipes, and features possibly the best four paragraphs ever written in praise of the potato – you could call it potato prose, I guess.

Nora also shares her recipe for linguine alla cecca, which is basically hot spaghetti in a cold sauce. I will certainly give this a try using the fruits from my new tomato plant – if they ever ripen, that is.

So in honour of Nora (and the wonderful Dolly Alderton who pointed me in the direction of this book via her weekly newsletter), here’s my recipe for a simple spaghetti supper which tastes great at any time of year.

This is easy to throw together on a weeknight or weekend and if you make a big batch of roasted vegetables, you’ll have enough for a few packed lunches. Whenever and wherever you eat this, however, it must be done at a leisurely pace.


Spaghetti for all seasons

First of all, choose your vegetables for roasting. I used fennel, red onion and broccoli but try whatever’s in season or that you have in the house. Chop or slice the vegetables and place in an oven tray, season with salt and pepper and maybe some fennel seeds, dried herbs or fennel seeds, and drizzle over some olive oil. I’m a bit obsessed with balsamic vinegar at the moment so I’ve added a generous amount of that for a bit of sweet and a bit of sour. If you’re opening wine – or have the dregs of a bottle hanging around – add a glug of that to the tray.

Roast for about 25–30 minutes. Cook the spaghetti as usual. For extra texture (and protein), crush up some nuts. Any kind will do; I use those bags of mixed nuts you can buy from the pound shop. To do this, use a pestle and mortar (one ex-boyfriend was visibly aghast when he discovered that I didn’t own one – oh, how times have changed) or the base of a mug or a glass – or anything solid and heavy – if you don’t have one.

Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain and return to the pan, add the roasted vegetables, the crushed nuts and some olive oil, and heat for a minute, stirring continuously. You might like to chuck in some black olives and capers too. Serve in bowls and add some parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have in the garden/salad draw. Add more oil and balsamic if you so wish. Always be generous with olive oil. Life’s too short.

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