I am in a committed and monogamous relationship with pasta: it is fulfilling, it warms and nourishes me, and I'm never left wanting for more. I could come home to pasta every night of the week and still my eyes wouldn't stray over to white rice, bread loaves or potato. Actually, that's a lie. I enjoy mornings spent in bed with a nice slice of sourdough, and I'll never turn away a hot potato. But the fact of the matter is that my heart remains in the possession of pasta.
Fettucini, bucatini, linguini, spaghettini - the list is practically endless, and I'm aware that I often slip into discussing food in borderline inappropriate ways, but c'mon. It's pasta. You understand.
The problem with having a committed and monogamous relationship with pasta is that - delicious though it is - you may find yourself, like me, in something of a rut. My sauces are so safe, so familiar. I open a can of tomatoes, I chop up an onion, crush a bit of garlic. Sometimes if it's a really special occasion I'll put on high heels, red lipstick and chuck in some capers and olives. But really, I'm sad to say it's starting to feel like we just don't put in the effort that we used to. There's only so much that a liberal grating of parmesan can do to distract you both from the fact that the routine is static, and you're just getting older, more wrinkled and more predictable. It's upsetting (even if you are primarily composed of wheat and gluten).
So I'm jazzing things up. I'm still the same old me, the linguine is the same linguine I've always loved and revered, but the can of tomatoes is staying in the pantry, and I intend to get saucy with some novel ingredients. Like this slinky, sultry, buttery, salty-but-ever-so-slightly-sweet caramelised onion, Medjool date, goat's cheese, pistachio and olive linguine. And yesss I still love pasta no matter if it's covered in butter, salt and garlic, or if it's bare naked, cold, tired and caked onto the side of the colander. I'm not shallow, but there's nothing wrong with spicing things up a little.
A bit of experimentation never hurt anyone.
1 red onion, cut into slices
2 garlic cloves
1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
4 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
1/4 cup soft goat's cheese
A glug of olive oil (or a stick of butter if you're feeling decadent)
1/4 cup black kalamata olives, halved
3 Tbsp capers
A sprinkling of chilli flakes
A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Enough linguine for 2 serves
Caramelise your onion by frying it with a little olive oil and the balsamic vinegar on medium heat, stirring often until the onion goes translucent and then starts to brown. It should taste sweet. If it doesn't, add a little more balsamic vinegar.
Meanwhile, cook your linguine as per the instructions on the packet.
To your caramelising onions, add the garlic, olives, capers, chilli and Medjool dates. Let cook for another few minutes.
Drain your pasta and toss it along with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, and toss so that it mixes together with the toppings.
Just before serving, stir through the chunks of goat's cheese and top with the parsley and pistachios. Add salt and pepper to taste.