You should always have one recipe in your repertoire that can be made with the absolute minimal of effort, in the shortest time, on the tightest of budgets, from store cupboard ingredients, that’s delicious, comforting, warming and like a hug for the soul. That can be made through tears, crippling heartache and whilst on the phone to your friend, spilling your guts.
After all, what more could you ask for from a dish? What other recipe could you ever need more?
Sure, it's true, most of these kinds of comfort recipes are by no means health foods, or have the best nutritional value and that is why you only ever make them when you’re tired, sad, hungover, unwell, and unable to muster anything else out of your sorry state.
For me, that recipe is Nigella’s Marmite Spaghetti.
It’s a recipe that has long courted controversy – which frankly I have never understood, and want to tell people who turn their nose up at it, to grow the hell up. Seriously. The dish makes perfect sense. Comfort food does not need to be high brow or sophisticated. That’s not what you crave or desire in these times. No you want good honest simplicity, inoffensive textures and familiar flavours.
This isn’t Marmite (or Vegemite) taken straight from the jar and slathered straight onto pasta. Instead it’s a smooth, buttery, simple, sauce that you might mistake for beef or browned butter.
It’s actually a take on the Italian classic of stirring stock, or juices from the roasting pan, through a bowl of fresh spaghetti. It's Unami it it’s finest. Savoury, gentle, and nourishing.
It’s no different to a marmite and cheese sandwich. Or Marmite on toast, where the marmite mixes and melts in with the butter making the most delicious concoction ever. Marmite + butter + carbs. It’s all the same formula. So why is the idea of it with pasta so alien to some?
All I’m saying is trust me on this one:
Don’t go crazy on the measuring here, just use your judgement and amend as your heart tells you, this is meant to be as easy and effortless as possible.
300g Spaghetti (approx)
3 tablespoons of butter (approx)
1 teaspoon Marmite / Vegemite / yeast spread of choice
Parmesan cheese to finish
1. Pick a cold, dark winters night, the day before payday, or when you’re tired, got PMS, emotional, heartbroken, hungover, unwell or, you know, just not feeling quite 100% and you can’t put your finger on why, but you just need to be alone for a while. Put on your PJ’s and turn on the electric blanket
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti, drain the pasta and when draining it, keep aside approx 1/2 cup of the salted cooking water
4. When the spaghetti is almost cooked, melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the yeast extract, and 1 tablespoon of the pasta water. Carefully whisk and continue to gently heat until it’s all combined into a smooth, golden, buttery sauce
5. Put the drained spaghetti back in the pasta saucepan, pour over the sauce, and gradually add the additional pasta water as required. The aim of the water is to help the sauce emulsify and combine, not to add masses of volume – you don’t wanna lose the marmite flavour. You want the spaghetti to be silky and glossy, just coated in the golden brown sheen
6. Top with grated Parmesan and black pepper, if you desire
7. Take your bowl, climb into bed, huddle under the duvet, put on an episode of Parks and Rec, rest this bundle of love on your chest, and nurture yourself. Oh, and don’t take the dish out to the kitchen when you’re done. Just pop it on the nightstand, roll over, wrap yourself in your duvet like a cute lil burrito, and cue up a few more episodes until you fall asleep.
Again. Trust Nigella, and trust me, on this one. You need this one in your life.