Italian Dinners are Always Better with Wine

I love cooking for other people, but this isn't something I've always enjoyed. Throughout most of my college career (the time in my life when I no longer could rely on my mom to feed me everyday), I cooked exclusively for myself. I was just testing the waters in the culinary world and discovering my palette and how to please it. I simply had no time to adjust what I was cooking for other people and honestly, I wasn't confident enough in my ability to share what I made.

Additionally, I was just beginning to dip my toes into the world of veganism and spent much of my time focusing on how I could eat healthy, get all of the nutrients I needed, as well as create delicious and filling dishes for myself. It never even occurred to me that I could get great joy out of sharing my dishes with other people.

Fast forward to my senior year of college after spending four months in Europe, I finally realized just how happy it made me to cook for other people. I think my love of cooking and feeding others really came about during the months I spent wandering the streets of Florence, Italy. Food there is really something else. They take great care in using the freshest ingredients. Pastas are made in-house, sauces are simmering in the kitchen as you order, tomatoes are being sliced by the sharp knives of the kitchen hands as you're sitting there waiting to be served. Eating in Italy is an intimate and sensual experience--your soul is filled with every bite of warm Pappa al Pomodoro and your heart is warmed with the slurp of each al dente linguine noodle. My Italian apartment kitchen became a lab of fresh veggies and bread, and since then, I've been addicted to cooking.

I've been having some serious Italy-withdrawals lately, so I decided to try to replicate my favorite meal in Firenze: the Spaghetti alla Chitarra from Osteria Santo Spirito. Delicious linguine noodles in a fresh sauce of crushed tomato, halved garlic, basil, olive oil, and salt. Literally the closest thing you can find to heaven on earth. Of course, I forced the food onto my new man-friend, but I don't think he was complaining!

In order to make a copy cat of this perfect plate of pasta, I bought dried eggless linguine noodles (even though they used ribollita noodles...I couldn't find them here). Normally I buy whole wheat pastas but this time I splurged and bought regular ol' white linguine. My sauce consisted of fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and salt. On the side, I experimented with Pillsbury Crescents (heck yes for being accidentally vegan!) and dipped them in melted Earth Balance Soy-Free Buttery Spread and crushed garlic, then sprinkled them with my Williams Sonoma Italian Seasoning mix which is mostly oregano, I believe. I baked those at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes and they came out so buttery, flaky, moist, and delicious! We slurped up our noodles with a glass of cold chardonnay and had a lovely evening.

Of course, this dinner didn't come close to my plate of perfection at Osteria Santo Spirito, but honestly, nothing ever will. I've built that restaurant up in my head so much that I'll never be able to do anything that'll come close. Haha!