This is a weird recipe, but it’s one which is perfect to have available when you 1) haven’t done your groceries and so have nothing else to cook, 2) have about 10 minutes to throw dinner on the table, 3) have a houseful of hungry kids to feed, 4) are alone and just need something delicious to fill your belly so you can get on with your day or, 5) would rather be knitting.
Growing up this was a favourite dish. Actually, every spaghetti dish was welcomed with much enthusiasm. Part of the reason was because in order to test the pasta for doneness, our mother wouldn’t throw it against the wall to see if it would stick (how barbaric). Instead, she would take a little plate, pluck 2 – 3 spaghettis from the boiling water and mix them with a generous sprinkling of mizithra.
She would then get us to taste them, and WE would be the ones to decide if the spaghetti was done or not. As soon as we said they were cooked enough, the pot was turned off and the pasta drained. She still does this, sometimes with our daughters, but sometimes with us, and each time she does we are transported back to our childhood. Looking back now, this small act spoke volumes. It represented such caring, such love, such a clear message that we mattered, and that our opinion was valuable. She was cooking primarily for us, her children. That, or she didn’t want pasta water dripping down her walls.
In other recipes we have suggested that if you cannot find mizithra you can substitute grated parmesan or romano cheese. Unfortunately, that really isn’t the case here. Given that there are so few ingredients, keeping to the ones actually called for is pretty important. The good news is that you can find mizithra in most Greek or Mediterranean grocery stores, and you can order it on-line. Once grated, it will keep fresh in the freezer for a very long time. You can also freeze it whole of course.
The two other star ingredients are the pasta and olive oil. Although not essential, we use Greek spaghetti. As for the olive oil, use the best quality Greek olive oil you can find. Try your best to order or purchase it directly from an olive oil producer or certified distributor. You will have a better chance of getting pure olive oil and not one of the impostor, adulterated oils which have been uncovered in recent years.
This meal, although delicious, does not contain any vegetables. If you are concerned about ensuring that all major food groups are represented at each meal, you are a better parent than us. So, we suggest that you set out a plate of olives (remember they are drupes, and drupes are fruit!), carrots or a simple salad.
Ugh…we can’t in good conscience go on without confessing. We lied. You of course CAN substitute the mizithra for either grated parmesan or romano cheese if you prefer. You can even try a different type of pasta, like a penne or linguine. You could even go so far as to use an Italian olive oil (gasp!). If you do any of those things however, it won’t be our parents’ recipe. But it will be your recipe…and it will probably be delicious.
Mia Kouppa: Spaghetti with olive oil and mizithra
- Spaghetti, 500 grams
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 heaping tablespoons mizithra cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, add your spaghetti. We have been taught to break the spaghetti in half prior to cooking it, but of course you don’t have to. Reduce heat to a low boil and cook the pasta as directed on the packaging, but truly, it is ready when you (or your child) says that it is.
- Drain your pasta and once fully drained, return it to the pot it boiled in.
- Take a few strands of pasta and dry them completely by rolling them with a paper towel. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Heat the oil for approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Drop a strand of dried spaghetti into the oil. When the spaghetti starts to sizzle vigorously, your oil is hot enough.
- Carefully pour the oil over the cooked spaghetti and mix well to coat all of the pasta. Add the mizithra and mix well. Serve with additional mizithra for people to add as they like.