This meal I’m going to write about was a little rite of passage. It was the first thing I cooked in my new kitchen, in my very own studio apartment.
When I was a little kid, and making my little-kid list of what Being a Grown-Up might possibly mean, high up on the list was having a living space all to myself. From the time I was 3 until the day I left for college, I shared a room with my sister. Never let it be said that I don’t love my sister–if you’re reading this, sistah, I love you–but the everyday grinding closeness, the shattering of any privacy, got under my skin in a big way.
I went to college, and had roommates and dorm-mates. I graduated and moved back home, then found other roommates. But this is the first time, ever in my life, that I have really had a complete living space that was 100 percent my own.
I’m so happy I could cry.
I feel so very, very blessed at this stage of my life to be able to afford to live alone. It’s only been a month, but already I can feel my center of gravity shifting. I’m beginning to remember what it’s like to take time to tend to my needs, instead of coming home in a cloud of forcible numbness and blunting my annoyance or stress or impatience with junk food and trashy TV. (Though that has its place, of course.)
Suddenly, I feel much more at ease; I feel cared-for; I feel soft and stable. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I can come home at all hours with armfuls of shopping bags, and shower in the middle of the night, and cook elaborate little meals for myself using only my favorite ingredients. I don’t have to worry that my boyfriend hates lemongrass; if I want to bruise a stalk and throw it into a stir-fry, that’s my own damn prerogative. If I want to banish all bean sprouts, which are evil and creepy and wrong, from my kitchen, there is no one going to stop me.
And if I decide on a whim to quick-roast some tomatoes and garlic and onions and make myself a snappy pasta sauce on a Tuesday night, nothing at all will stand in my way.
I am still learning this new kitchen, the one that is mine all mine. I have discovered that the freezer is miraculously cold, and the fridge is small but serviceable. I have started making peace with the elderly gas oven, which will sit cold and unresponsive for ten minutes and then startle to life with a FOOM and a flash of blue flame. I have found that, despite having at least ten different drawers to choose from, not one of them will properly store my collection of Tupperware. These are problems to be solved.
In the meantime, I roasted tomatoes until they started to pucker and slump, crushed them into a little prepared tomato sauce for a head start, then added some inexpensive sausage and a handful of leftover greens from a bunch of radishes I ate straight from the fridge, because I can do that now and no one will judge me. It made for a dynamite pasta sauce–sweet and smoky, chewy and meaty–and one I will almost certainly make again, another time when the whim strikes me.
If you are living alone, you should make this too. And even if you’re not, you should make it for the people you live with. Somehow, it just tastes like home.
Roasted Tomato Pasta with Sausage and Greens (serves 2)
12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes
6-8 cloves of garlic, whole and unpeeled
1/2 small red onion, sliced
2 links Italian or other sausage, chopped or crumbled
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 lb. pasta of your choice (I used whole wheat penne)
A handful of fresh spinach or other greens (I used radish greens), roughly chopped
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan for serving
Preheat oven to 400º F. If using grape tomatoes, cut them in half. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and scatter tomatoes, garlic cloves and onion slices evenly in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and toss the vegetables around (use your hands–it’s fun), making sure everything is evenly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 25-30 minutes, until the tomatoes have burst and/or shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can peel the garlic cloves without burning yourself.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, then remove from the pot and add the tomatoes, onions and peeled garlic cloves. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to break the roasted vegetation up into small pieces. When everything is broken down to your liking, add tomato sauce, plus one can (1/2 cup) water, and the rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until it starts to get saucy-like, then remove the rosemary.
Meanwhile, boil your pasta water. Cook the pasta until it’s a minute or two shy of al dente, then drain, making sure there’s plenty of water still clinging to it. Add the wet pasta into the sauce, along with the reserved sausage and greens. Simmer until the pasta is al dente.
Season with salt and pepper as needed, and serve with lots of grated Parm on top.