I didn’t need the founder of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street to remind me, as he does in the prolific food media company’s latest cookbook, that “noodles are the ultimate fast food.”
I keep at least one box of pasta around at all times for that very reason. I feel secure knowing that, even if I haven’t made it to the store, I can always boil up some noodles to mix with a few leftover tidbits for a decent meal in a flash.
Then I followed an actual recipe for Catalan Noodles with Pork and Chorizo: a one-skillet dish of macaroni, diced pork, sliced sausage, canned tomatoes, slivered almonds, frozen peas and parsley. The ingredients sounded as random as some of my spontaneous concoctions but, as I learned from the recipe’s introduction, it’s actually based on a classic from northern Spain called fideos a la cazuela — with elbow macaroni subbing for the more traditional thin, toasted noodles.
The dish came together in less than an hour and was as delicious as described. Not all the recipes in “Milk Street Noodles: Secrets to the World’s Best Noodles, from Fettuccine Alfredo to Pad Thai to Miso Ramen” (Voracious, $35) are that simple. But they’re easily within any home cook’s reach and equipped with just enough cultural context to make you feel rewarded in the mind as well as the belly.
The book begins with a few tutorials for scratch-made pastas. But for the rest of the recipes, store-bought noodles will suffice. Chapters cover Italian classics (Spaghetti Puttanesca), stir-fries (Spicy Glass Noodles with Ground Pork), soups (Chicken Pho), salads (Chilled Soba with Ginger and Edamame), hearty casseroles (Noodle Kugel with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese) and more.
As Kimball explains, the notion of noodles is the same the world over: “a simple combination of ingredients transformed into thousands of shapes, recipes, and uses.” His team has traveled the far corners to study their nuances and develop recipes designed for modern life, while paying homage to their origins. Each demonstrates how the possibilities for innovation are endless, once you know where to start.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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