Though Francesco and I normally breeze through life surrounded by heart-shaped bubbles and flower petals falling at our feet, we, like every other couple, have our share of kerfuffles.
One recurring point of contention involves the presence of dog hair on every conceivable surface of the house, something that, for reasons completely foreign to me, makes Francesco want to jump off the roof of the house with the cord of the vacuum cleaner around his neck, likely holding a sign reading, Not on the pillow!!! I can’t go on!!!! When I find some stray doggie hairs on the pillow – where the doggie is not allowed – I simply lack the ability to appreciate the gravity of the situation. That is, of course, until, alerted by the clunk-clunk-clunk of the vacuum being dragged up the stairs, I notice Francesco making a beeline for the window.
And while I don’t see anything life threatening in an occasional dog hair on the couch or, say, in my soup, I absolutely cannot deal with dillydallying in the kitchen. Let me put it bluntly: Francesco requires 5 solid minutes to chop a carrot and that’s only if he’s not taking frequent pauses for the sippage of wine, say, or perusal of the refrigerator. His lackadaisical kitchen manner means that I usually end up prepping his ingredients beforehand and (annoyingly, I admit) cleaning up around him as he goes just to distract myself from the mindblowingly slow movements of his hands. Thoughts of dying from hunger or boredom pass through my mind as I watch him glance sidelong at whatever he’s preparing, second guess actually doing something, and decide instead to check the status of his wine glass.
As of late, we have taken some measures for the sake of harmony. Francesco has amassed an army of lint rollers that, should the need arise, adequately rid the offending location of the dog’s hair.
And I have learned to stop asking, “Are you sure you want to [insert whatever he’s doing here]?” or “Shouldn’t you add this?” or “OH MY GOD!!! HONEY! ARE YOU OK?!!? Oh, sorry. You were going so slow I thought you died.”
Not only do these small yet vital changes make for a more peaceful (not to mention pet hair free!) home, I am finally able to appreciate Francesco’s cooking.
And while his repertoire may not be extensive, it is definitely delicious.
And with that, allow me to present the final installation of our successful shellfish extravaganza: Francesco’s linguine al granchio, or pasta with crab. According to the chef, who loooves crab almost as much as he hates vagrant dog hair, this recipe was inspired by a similar dish made by a visiting Italian professor in Providence, Rhode Island. After years of experimenting, Francesco has it down.
Take it from me, the kitchen perfectionist. When crab pasta is on the menu, and the garlic (which I pre-peeled, naturally) is sizzling, I don’t even go in to check on his progress.
So what if I could have lint rolled the entire house in the length of time it takes him to chop 4 tomatoes? I know the result will be flawless. Just like our pillows.
FRANCESCO’S CRAB PASTA
These measurements make the perfect amount for 4 very hungry people.
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1-2 tsp chili flakes
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 lb / 500 grams / 2 small tubs good-quality crab meat
1 cup white wine (or..gasp!…rosé)
1-2 tsp chopped parsley (optional)
1 lb / 500 grams / 1 box linguine
Set a large pot of water on high heat. When boiling, add ample salt and cook the linguine until just al dente (usually 2-3 minutes less than the time on the box).
Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a wide-bottomed pot with the olive oil and heat over low flame. Add the garlic and stir, for 5 minutes. Add the chili flakes and, after a few more minutes, add the tomatoes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until they’re losing their juices, about 5 minutes. Add the crab meat and any juice it came in, then after a minute or two, add the wine. Add a teaspoon or two of finely chopped parsley if desired. Cook everything on medium-low for 15 minutes. Add more olive oil and/or wine if the sauce is at all dry.
Drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce. Stir over medium heat for about 30 seconds, then serve into individual pasta bowls with some chopped parsley on top for color.