Friday, August 15, 2008

Oodles of Noodles

My dad is Italian. By no means, however, does this mean that he has any special ability whatsoever in the kitchen. He can eat like an Italian, but put my father in front of a stove, and he’ll probably open it up and figure out how it works rather than light it up and make food. So when my mom was in the hospital for a few weeks when I was seven years old, our diet was limited to two things: Campbell’s Condensed Split Pea soup, and a concoction that somewhat hearkened back to my father’s Italian roots – using the word “somewhat” as loosely as possible.

This creation that we ate for dinner four nights out of seven was called, in accordance with my dad’s predilection for sing-songy names about pretty much everything, “oodles of noodles,” from the classic Italian dish “molto pasti.” You can see the resemblance.

It was a simple dish, one that combined slightly overcooked noodles (the term “al dente” never seemed to make it into my dad’s Italian verbiage), dried Italian seasoning, butter, salt, and LOTS of Kraft Parmesan Cheese in the cylindrical container. It was white, it was greasy, and it was good. One family video we have is of me terrorizing our enormous, 25-pound orange cat (so named, Purr-Purr), while my dad mixed the Oodles of Noodles.

The day my mom was released from the hospital was the last time I ever saw my dad cook anything that wasn’t popped in the microwave.

Recently, my dad had a mild heart attack and had a Pacemaker installed in his chest. Saying that makes him sound like a 1990 Ford Taurus with a bad alternator, but the truth is, he truly believes that he’s the Terminator.

Now that my dad isn’t top notch and I can cook for him, the next time I go home to visit, I’ll make him my own version of Oodles of Noodles:

Spaghetti with Bread Crumbs (Oodles of Noodles revisited)

½ lb thin spaghetti noodles
½ T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c Italian-style bread crumbs
¼ t crushed red pepper
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
zest of ½ lemon
Block of Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese

Boil spaghetti noodles until al dente, drain and drizzle olive oil over noodles. Toss to coat. Transfer noodles into a large serving dish. Mix next five ingredients together and add to spaghetti. Toss to evenly distribute mixture. Serve topped with large shavings of cheese.

Serves 4

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