Nigella did it again: she’s confused Pasta for the bread. The last time she smeared herself with Marmite spaghetti, now it’s peanut butter. Across the UK, Italians are clenching their hearts and collapsing.
It’s a strange decision for someone who once felt compelled to teach the nation how, uh, make toast, but apparently everything was done with the best of intentions. by Lawson “dreamy and creamy peanut butter pasta” is part of a series of economical recipes that she has imagined ocado. I’ve read that it’s a family favorite; you start to wonder if everything is okay at home.
And then my editor asked me to try. Look, I thought, fire me if you have to, but no need to poison me while you’re at it. Still, I have a mortgage, so I tried. Reading the recipe is reminiscent of Lawson’s peculiar and wildly popular brand of kitschy cooking: one has to open the requisite bag of baby spinach “with enthusiasm”. A tea towel is necessary, but “not a terry or waffle one, just a smooth, thin one”. Well, of course, good God. Boiling water will rise “sparkling”. “Thus” is used. Ocado, I guess, isn’t strict on word count.
Things got off to an inauspicious start, however. Long before I have to spit on my sponge in disgust, Nigelle asks for two and a half liters of water from a freshly boiled kettle; my kettle – and yours probably – can’t hold that much. Oh my God, I thought, no one has tried the recipe. It didn’t bode well. Mind you, I had gotten off to a bad start right off the bat: for full Ocado vibes I should have shopped at M&S or Waitrose, but on Tuesday I went to Waitrose for a tub of cream and some mixed herbs and a Once I’d thrown in a bag for life, it came to about fifty pounds, so (so) I stayed at Aldi. This turned out to be a misjudgment – bafflingly mine sells coconut halves stuffed with peanut butter, but not actual jars of that stuff.
I persisted. The corner stores help. Besides, there were other worries: did I really want to swallow pasta that had only been on the hob for a few minutes? I’m all for al dente, but…
Nigelle Lawson is Nigella Lawson, however. She has her followers for a reason. As a result, I followed his recipe resolutely – you can find it in full here – whisk three spoonfuls of the brown stuff with pasta water, spinach, chili flakes, garlic and thyme.
“God, the things I do for journalism,” I muttered to the frozen mess in front of me, wondering where in the kitchen the Pulitzer would look best. But just as I gazed at this stool sample from a dish in front of me, stirred (also enthusiastically), it turned into a smooth emulsion. Brilliant red flecks of chili and green hints of thyme shimmered attractively. I might actually want to eat this, I thought, then wondered if I should call the GP or a therapist first.
Try it; 10 minutes for an experiment is not that much time to waste. The truth is that the dish is very… thin. In fact, Nigella’s method of cooking pasta is great – much less gas is used and it frees up space on the hob to boot. Once plated, the sauce is a thin thing; a ragu it is not. It’s harmlessly peanutty, with a taste that’s no different—and I realize it’s going to be a shocker—from peanut noodles. Pasta is a sturdy partner, it can withstand a lot. The spinach and lemon keep it fresh, but the chilli could be doubled, and the paprika is a must; it does a lot of work here in terms of flavor. I like that most of the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard, called as you go. And while I’m not sure about its nutritional value, peanut butter is packed full of goodness. Basically, it’s a perfectly fine, albeit surprising, midweek supper dish. “Dreamy” is a stretch – but it wasn’t nightmarish either.