The Night Owl’s Special: Midnight Spaghetti

I recently moved in with a man. Until now, for the last decade, I lived alone in a shoe-box studio apartment on the north end of Manhattan with my dog, Quentin Compson. Now the man, the dog and I live in a shoe-box one-bedroom in Brooklyn. It took awhile to get used to having another occupy my space, when all I ever had to account for was myself and my wire-haired familiar.

I didn’t know how much I would rely on midnight for both my cravings and my work. As the man goes to bed, I stay up to write: I had heard from friends that this was how they got their “alone time,” by staggering the hours, a necessary cushion from the joys of coupled life. It doesn’t hurt that I get my best writing done after-hours and often finalize my recipes late into the evening, long after the man has gone to bed. This leaves me to the living room, to the kitchen and to myself. And if there’s one dish that encompasses these precious hours of recuperative solitude, it has to be midnight spaghetti.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Noodles

I live my truest life in that hour from 12 a.m. to 1 a.m., in the spirit of a spaghettata di mezzanotte, a late-night Italian spaghetti party, which often evolves (or devolves, depending on how you look at it) from the kind of evening that wants to linger. It’s one of the few things in life that is always within reach, even when your fridge is practically empty. As my colleague David Tanis once wrote, “The smell of pasta boiling is a heady cheap thrill.”

What I love to eat most during this cherished time is spaghetti, with its comforting slipperiness. Other shapes work, too: I’ve been known to make a mean midnight orzo with guanciale, Pecorino Romano and black pepper, sometimes egg yolks if I’m feeling “in the carbonara way.” Other nights, it’s something punchier, like an alla vodka sauce made à la minute with fusilli: tomato paste bloomed in some fat, such as butter or olive oil, then swirled with a splash of vodka and cream. For the man, it’s a ragù, made the way of his grandfather’s family in Ferrara. Maybe for you, midnight pasta is a fridge clear-out, where you turn all of your leftover crisper-drawer vegetables into a nubby sauce.

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