Snow Day Spaghetti

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In Seattle, snow is as rare as rain is common. Possibly more so, seeing as our reputation as a rainy city is partially true and partially a fable told and retold to Californians in an effort to keep them from moving to the area (judging from the traffic–and the fact that I’m married to a former Californian–it hasn’t worked as well as we hoped). When we do get snow, the streets are merely wet by evening, icy by midnight, and the snow by the roadside is melted by the next afternoon. We get even less here, sheltered in a narrow band between the backside of a hill and Lake Washington. As a child, I remember it snowing two or three times a year, with at least one snow day thrown in, but the climate has changed since then, and we generally only see one sticking snowfall a year, or two at the most.

Someone should tell all of that to the seven inches that’s set up camp in my yard, and the ice packed onto every roadway. It’s overstayed its welcome.

Oh, it was a fun guest on Thursday when it all fell in a matter of hours. The whole day took on the feel of a real snow day, complete with powdery snowman snow, another rarity in our region. Our snowballs usually crumble or pack down to nothing but lethal ice. Baker Bee was off work and baking Portuguese sweet bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (which makes the best toast and French toast I’ve ever had, especially when topped with my dad’s apple butter–we went through a whole jar on two loaves), and a couple of snowed-in friends stopped off in the middle of a walk for rest and a nice Carbonated drink. I continued reaquainting myself with tools and supplies from pastry school and cake decorating. Opening the tubs that had been gathering dust in the spare bedroom for far too long now was enough like tearing into Christmas presents to infuse the day with a festive spirit. It was the first snow day I’ve had as an adult that really felt like a snow day.

Yesterday, however, without fresh flakes to revive it, the snow started to take on the appearance of a houseguest who’d lost all of their luggage down to their tolietry kit but insisted they could “get by” until the airline came through and delivered their stuff. It looked cold and tired, and the prospect of the winter storm that’s supposed to hit on Sunday made it not seem like quite the miracle it had been the day before. The fun was gone for the most part, but Baker Bee did bake another loaf of bread–a Italian-ish white loaf with some of the new sour we’re cultivating in the fridge. It didn’t turn out very sour–I didn’t really expect it to have much sour to it yet–but it did have a lot of flavor, so Mr. Bee suggested we should make pasta to go with it.

I decided I didn’t want anything heavy, like the cheese sauce Baker Bee wanted to make. Olive oil and roasted veggies seemed like the best way to go. I thought about the vegetables we had in the fridge–vegetables that needed attention as soon as possible, since the vegetable barely stew he’d made on Monday had been too good to think of cooking anything else before it was all gone. Crimini mushrooms, mixed bell peppers, broccoli florets, Campari tomatoes. Not my usual combination for pasta, but okay. And then I got out a big casserole dish and started slicing vegetables.

In a pan, I tossed the mushrooms, orange and red bell peppers, and broccoli with olive oil, coarsely-chopped garlic, salt, black pepper, and a mixture of dried oregano, basil, thyme and marjoram, then put it in to roast at 375° for about 45 or 50 minutes total. I stirred the veggies every five to seven minutes, a bit more often than I probably should have but I kept smelling something charring in the oven, like a barbeque, which might have been the mushrooms sticking out on top or (more likely) some of the cornmeal that has escaped off of Baker Bee’s pizza stone during the bread-baking spree.

When I opened the door each time, though, a wonderful aroma bathed my face along with the steam, carrying with it the smell of the roasted vegetables reminded me most of the ones I get on my sandwiches at a place called Grinders up north when I go to watch True Blood with a writing friend. (If you live in the area and end up north of Shoreline on Aurora sometime, make sure to stop there for lunch. So, so messy and so, so good. Plus the amibiance inside is a lot cooler than you might guess from the location and the outside of the building.)

The tomatoes went in separately, quartered and lying on their backs, with more olive oil and a good dusting of (vegetarian) bacon salt and regular sea salt. I think they shared the oven with the other vegetables for about the last 15 minutes. When they started looking happy and roasted, I shut off the oven, opened the door a bit and left all the vegetables in there to keep warm while Baker Bee made the whole wheat spaghetti and tossed it with a jar of organic heirloom pasta sauce we got to try. (It was very good, by the way…tasty but thin enough not to compete with the veggies.) Once all was ready, we layered the veggies over the pasta and sprinkled it all with parmesan cheese.

I was expecting a lot less from this pasta than it delivered, possibly because I don’t normally roast the vegetables that I put in with pasta–it’s far too easy to boil some broccoli in the same water as the pasta and call it slightly healthy. But the texture of the vegetables and the pasta were just right. The “tooth-feel” of the mushrooms in particular was exactly what I was looking for, which was a roasted equivalent of the perfectly cooked mushrooms in Baker Bee’s vegetable barely stuff earlier in the week. The flavors were the sort that get better as you eat. I thought I was getting full and set my plate aside, but soon I was craving the pasta again and took it back in hand. All in all, a warm, flavorful dish that took me immediately back to my cozy snow day feeling from the day before.

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