The day I made this dish for the first time my mom happened to call.
She knew it was a cooking day and asked what I was making.
I told her I was testing out a self-saucing pasta dish where all of the ingredients -- including the dry, uncooked pasta -- are thrown into the pot together, expecting her to sound as intrigued and excited as I was.
Instead, mom was unimpressed.
"Oh, that's like sopa seca."
"Sopa seca. Dry soup. We made it in Mexico."
Mom is a retired Spanish teacher. She also taught French and world geography, but most of her career was spent teaching Southern-drawled teenagers to speak a language filled with trilled Rs in rapid succession. (For the record, according to a September 2011 Time.com story, Spanish is spoken at a faster rate than English, clocking in at almost eight syllables per second compared to just over six syllables per second in English.)
And much of my childhood was spent avoiding learning Spanish. I have nothing against the language, and, in fact, I wish I had paid more attention when mom was attempting to share her knowledge with me. Other than taco, cerveza, dulce de leche and gracias -- no hablo espanol.
Reading through sopa seca recipes, I learned it is just as often made with rice as it is pasta. And while this pasta recipe definitely has an Italian bent, the premise is the same.
This is by far the easiest pasta dish I've ever cooked. The pasta literally sauces itself as it cooks. I won't go as far as to say it is just as good as traditional Alfredo sauce, but it is definitely a close second.
The pasta is delicious on its own, or you can stir in sliced cooked chicken breast or sauteed shrimp or Italian sausage to make it a main dish. Add some roasted or steamed vegetables and you've got a meal.
One-Pot Pasta Alfredo
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
8 ounces spaghetti or vermicelli
2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth)
1 cup half-and-half OR whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
Ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Minced fresh basil, oregano or parsley, for garnish
In a wide, deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is tender and beginning to brown. Add the pasta and pour in the broth, milk and butter, submerging the pasta. Season with ground black pepper and nutmeg. Increase heat to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is cooked through and the liquid is thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Garnish with basil.
Makes 2 (main dish) to 4 (side dish) servings.
Food on 10/12/2016
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