Eating outside on a hot, still day, in the shade of the house is a pleasure that I keenly anticipate throughout the winter months. Most enjoyable of these moments are the impulsive, unpremeditated occasions when it just seems like the right moment. The preparation for the pre-arranged dinner al fresco is fraught with doubt and anxiety, whereas walking out of the door, into the buzzing silence of a summer’s afternoon, with a freshly prepared plate of something simply delicious in your hand is a confirmation that all is right within the small world that is today’s happiness.
Making the right amount of pasta is one of the great oxymorons. There is no right amount only a wrong amount. It’s always too little or too much. If some pasta is left over it will be because you made too much and if none is left over it will be because you made too little, not because you made the right amount. So, it appears that I made too much last night. A friend of mine, an Italian, gave me some good advice many years ago about left over pasta and the advice was to eat it cold as a salad.
Last night I had made a larder pasta sauce based on a small amount of good tomato sauce which needed using. A red pepper was close to giving in to the weather and had be sliced and very slowly cooked in a pan with olive oil. I didn’t skin it, but cooked the thick slivers until the skin side had burnt edges and the flesh had melted. In another pan, translucent discs of thinly sliced garlic together with a chopped bird’s eye chilli were infusing the warm olive oil that surrounded them. The peppers and tomato sauce were added to the garlic and chillies, along with the oil from the red pepper pan. The mixture sat over a low heat until the pasta was cooked, drained and stirred into it. A dish of fresh breadcrumbs from a cereal loaf were sprinkled over and stirred into the deliciously entwined pasta threads.It was a bowlful of this chillied delight that caught my eye as I opened the fridge. I moistened it with some more olive oil, left the kitchen and within a few moments I was seated at a shady table on my favourite terrace.