If you ask any number of my friends, as well as my husband, they'll all tell you that the food I take comfort in is Italian in origin—and most of the time, that manifests in pasta. Perhaps that's because I spent a formative part of adulthood in Florence, Italy, or because of the Italian-American restaurant I worked at in New York, or just because long commutes often leave me with zero time or inspiration in the evenings to dream up anything more elaborate (you, too?).
So when Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly, Colu Henry's new cookbook, landed on my desk, I basically yelped with joy. Back Pocket Pasta's no-frills, this-is-a-loose-guide vibes let Colu's casual approach to cooking shine—she offers a few guidelines for how she always approaches every dish, but encourages the reader to play around and not get too caught up in the ingredient list, since every pantry is different. (She also extolls the value of vino alongside a pasta dinner and let's just say that I concur wholeheartedly.) Dotting the pages of the book are vibrant pestos, creamy greens, classics like puttanesca and cacio e pepe, mash-ups like "Tomato Salad" Pasta and "BLT" Pasta, and more. There's a salad and sides section to complete the table spread, and a few aperitivi suggestions from PUNCH's Editor-in-Chief, Talia Baiocchi.
In the book, of the recipe, Colu says:
This recipe comes from one of my dearest friends, Carla Lalli Music. We met while working together and discovered that her family also hails from Avellino, a small province outside of Naples, so we developed an immediate kinship. Alfredo is her favorite back pocket pasta. “My mom cooked this for me most Saturday nights when I was growing up, and I used to throw my body over the bowl to keep my dad from eating half of it out of my plate (then I’d yell at him to stop eating it straight out of the pot),” Carla told me. Her recipe is a true Alfredo, which means no cream, milk, or flour. The sauce is a glossy emulsion of butter and starchy pasta water, which she finishes with lots of black pepper, like you would a carbonara. “Whoever you make this for will know instantly that you love them very much. At least, that’s what it tastes like to me.” Spoken in true Carla fashion.
To watch Colu make alfredo, watch our Facebook Live with her here. She believes in always more cheese, and being free-wheeling with pasta shapes.
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 pound fusilli pasta
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (but not Microplaned), plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper