Water Noodles

A fascinating fact about spaghetti: there is both one right way to cook and eat spaghetti and a dozen right ways to cook and eat spaghetti.

My preference? Drop the noodles whole into a pot of vigorously boiling salted water and then finish cooking just past al dente in a savory tomato sauce. Scoop two spoonfuls into a shallow bowl and top with grated Parmesan cheese. The shallow bowl is best because the spaghetti spreads out enough that you can tug a few strands from the mound and twirl them around your fork without bringing half do the plate along for the ride, but the low sides help to corral any slippery evaders or to scoop up the leftover sauce with a piece of garlic bread.

Members of my family have many passionate opinions about spaghetti (to twirl the noodles or to cut them into pieces being one of the great debates), and a long-standing history of expressing those opinions, starting with my great-grandfather as a newly-wed:

According to legend, the young and lovely Mary Louise
asked her new husband, Carmen, "On what shall we dine
for dinner this eve?" To which he replied, "Of course, my dear bride!
Let's have some spaghetti, if you please."

Away she went, not quite sure what he meant,
for Mary Louise was German, you see,
and Italian was not quite her specialty.

Nevertheless, spaghetti she would make,
for she knew a bit about what it would take: 
Some pasta, some garlic, tomato sauce, of course;
bring it all to a boil--How hard could it be
to make a fine dinner out of spaghetti?

Tomato sauce she'd never made, but tomato paste she had;
she thinned it with water--it didn't look half bad!
She added a pinch of salt and a dash of garlic powder;
dropped in the noodles and let them simmer away. 
As the pasta cooked to an al dente, the sauce reduced,
no longer looking like soup, and a pat of butter
added smoothness and shine.

And then it was time to dine.

"Here you are, dear husband of mine, delicious spaghetti.
Shall we have a glass of wine?" said the lovely Mary Louise.
Carmen looked down at his plate and he started to frown,
Oh what could it be? fretted Mary Louise, as she looked
at her husband and found in his eyes a terrible expression
of confusion and surprise.

"What the hell is this?" he cried, "This ain't spaghetti--
These are damn water noodles!"

I'm not sure what came next, if there were laughs, shouts or tears;
The details become fuzzy after so many years. 
But that night they feasted on those damn water noodles
And the next day, Carmen sent his bride to his mother,
Where she learned to cook Italian food like no other.  

For years after, the lovely Mary Louise hand-made ravioli
and homemade tomato sauce with ease. But sometimes for dinner,
even generations after, we'll still cook damn water noodles,
and eat them with laughter. 

So what do you do on a cold and rainy spring day with a half of a can of tomato paste?
Make Water Noodles. (I ate mine with roasted eggplant.)