I think everyone who enjoys cooking has a few recipes that are made over and over again. Home cooks prepare a dish again and again likely for two reasons:
a) because the recipe is good and the loved ones you serve it to like it (or if you are serving it to kids, they do not complain), or:
b) The finished dish has attained ‘nostalgia’ status, meaning there are great memories attached to sharing a particular meal that you prepared, and knowingly or not, those endorphins release every time you make it again.
I had made this recipe once or twice before I had just started dating The Lovely. One late summer day in August of 1996, I was invited to her apartment to make dinner. I was a fledgeling cook back then, and didn’t want to make anything too fancy or overwhelming, so I decided that this dish would be equally foolproof and delicious. I remember packing my knife, sauté pan and Microplane grater in my backpack before heading off to Whole Foods to gather the ingredients and eventually, The Lovely’s apartment. I have made Linguini and Bitter Greens at least 200 times since that hot day in 1996. It is a ridiculously easy recipe that can be altered many different ways, but the the technique of finishing the linguini in the saute pan with the pancetta, pasta water, garlic and pepper flakes was a revelation to me back in ’96.
Would I have made this 200 times in the past sixteen years or so if it didn’t remind myself and The Lovely of one of our early dates (and most certainly the first time I cooked for her)? Probably not. That is why food and cooking intrigues me: Sometimes it is not the food, but the memory that generates the real flavor.
Here is the recipe, from a 1996 issue of Food&Wine magazine. Feel free to improvise. Use bacon instead of pancetta. Use spinach or chard instead of arugula, try Vermouth instead of chicken stock–It’s all good. Cheers.