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Home Movies Tuesday!
Hello and welcome to Home Movies Tuesday! If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
This edition of Home Movies is sponsored by All-Clad, and to celebrate, they’ve let me pick some of my tried and true All-Clad products to give away to our Home Movies subscribers. As our final giveaway, this week it’s a D3 Stainless 8 qt stockpot, the pot I use for boiling pasta (remember: salty like the sea), making soups, or simmering stocks. For a chance to win one of your own, just click here and enter your email. You can also use the code ALISON10 for 10% off any All-Clad purchase.
I’m sure it seems insane to re-issue a recipe for literally no reason, but I guess I have a reason and that reason is I am sentimental as hell. If you came here wondering if this version of Caramelized Shallot Pasta is different from the first iteration of Caramelized Shallot Pasta, I will save you the time and let you know that no, the recipe isn’t. So why redo it? See: Sentimental as hell.
Two weeks ago I moved apartments, a thing I swore I’d never do. Not because I hate moving (I do!) but because at one point, I told someone I’d die in there, my dream apartment. It had perfect afternoon light and tinned ceilings, original parquet flooring, and the same bathroom tile as Keen’s. The decorative fireplace was the perfect location for my collection of matchbooks and my plants thrived in the southern-facing windows whose little ledges my cat loved to nap on. The kitchen had perfect window-pane cabinet doors with a built-in pantry and the most special small, skinny closet. Quite literally any person who ever stepped foot inside the place always said, almost immediately: wow, the energy in here is just. so. good.
Not unlike a relationship that goes south, the things I once loved became the things I couldn’t stand. The apartment I first found small and charming I came to find claustrophobic and chaotic. And like a relationship that goes south, sometimes it takes a while to end things. Pre-pandemic, I had started to consider a studio space or a different place to live since it was becoming increasingly challenging to fill my tiny apartment with a camera crew every few weeks, accept heavy equipment deliveries up the four flights of stairs that struggled to support more than one C-stand, make room for the ridiculous amount of groceries and store the leftover food I tried to freeze to avoid waste, on top of also attempting to simply…live there, too. The line I had separating work and home/job and life was barely there as it was; the size of the apartment erased it almost completely. And then, 2020.
It was a lot of time alone in that apartment, not seeing anyone or going anywhere, eating too many Cadbury creme eggs, living exclusively on the internet, which, for the better part of 2020, was a generally awful place to be. I won’t say 2020 is the reason I moved, because it’s not, although these days we do love to just explain large and significant life choices by throwing our hands up in the air and shrugging “2020!” which to be fair, works most (if not all) of the time. There were practical reasons, too, mostly relating to my desire to grow my business and have more physical space to separate my work and non-work life, but also just an energetic clearing, a thing if we are fortunate enough to pursue, can be a wonderful thing for one's mental health.
Like anyone else in densely populated metropolitan areas, living in an apartment of that size, specifically, that size kitchen (with that sized refrigerator, with that sized stove), never stopped me from doing everything else I would have done if I had the space. It didn’t stop me from throwing amazing (IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF) parties, shooting cookbooks and columns, hosting weekly dinners and annual holidays, making Home Movies, or writing books and recipes. I actually think the restrictions made all of those things better because I am the type of person who doesn’t think something is good or valuable unless it’s a challenge (I would not call this perspective “healthy,” but acknowledgment is the first step and if a woman can’t be honest about her own weird psychosis in her own newsletter, where can she be honest about it?), and doing all of those things in that space was nothing if not a challenge. For me, but also certainly for the directors, photographers, and prop stylists with tons of heavy equipment and boxes, delivery people who lugged even more equipment and boxes, the assistants and party guests who I asked to bring me pounds of citrus and bags and bags of ice. I am grateful for each person who saw that space and knew the assignment and thought: OKAY! We can do it!!
The new kitchen is not that much larger in square footage, it’s just easier to use with more closed cabinetry (and a dishwasher). Still, there are many things I did in the old apartment out of necessity that I’ll continue doing in the new one. I definitely brought that IKEA kitchen island with me because I still need the counter space. I’ll probably continue keeping my wine in the bathtub because I think it’s fun. I’ll still be mindful of how many bowls, pots, and pans I use to make a recipe because that mindfulness is burned into my brain and honestly, it’s just how I cook. While I officially have a “standard-sized refrigerator”, my new oven is no prize and is likely just as terrible as yours so please know I hope that all my baking recipes are still reliably foolproof for you. I’m already bracing myself for the “BUT WE LOVED YOUR OLD KITCHEN” comments and trust me, I loved it, too! Surely there is room in your heart for a new one?
Anyway, as an adieu to [REDACTED ADDRESS], we here at Home Movies thought it would be fun or funny or both (at least to us) to make one last iconic (at least to me) dish in this apartment. Here, we were defining “iconic” as simply something that felt era-defining, and the Shallot Pasta era was heavily defined in this apartment. The collective enthusiasm for a handful of very humble pantry ingredients turned into one very sticky, savory pasta. I know it’s going to sound painfully earnest, a thing I tend to recoil from, but when I say the shallot pasta is one of the most wonderful things to happen to me, I mean it. When your life's work is to literally try and get people to like anchovies I mean take enjoyment from cooking dinner, and like...it fucking works...there is no greater feeling, no higher high.
The shallot pasta was born in this apartment but now it’s gone off to college to start its own life, full of modifications and new traditions. The pasta is no longer mine, but yours. Do you use red onions instead of shallots because you know that’s fine and it’s all you had? Do you sub capers or a dab of miso for the anchovies because you can't or won't eat anchovies? Do you use all of the paste even though I recommend using half because you prefer it that way? Do you make this on all your first “I’m going to cook for you” dates because you know it’s impossible not to love? Do you add fish sauce or chili flakes or top it with Parmesan even though it’s not in the recipe? Do you make the paste just to have on hand or give it as a gift? I hope whether you cook it word for word or make your own substitutions that you feel proud and excited every time you make it. This recipe belongs to you now, and I know you’ll love it and share it as if it were your own (it is!).
Does it sound mildly unhinged that I am talking about a recipe this way? Well, moving is emotional, hello, I’ve been crying for three weeks straight so yes I’ve fully broken down over my radical attachment to a bowl of pasta!
It felt poetic to close out a chapter or “a season” (lol what’s a season of a Vlog) with this dish, the last thing I’ll make in that old apartment. This week also happens to be the same week as the one-year anniversary of A Newsletter, and much like releasing that carbonara video on Carbonara Day, I swear we did not plan it this way. I will chalk it up to something cosmic.
Click HERE for a printable PDF.
caramelized shallot pasta
The two best pieces of advice I can give you while making this are to take the shallots to a more frizzled, caramelized place than you think (do not be afraid!) and please, whatever you do, do not skip the garlic/parsley topping. Re: the half of the shallot paste, save it for more pasta. Spread it onto buttered toast. Spoon it over scrambled eggs. Sauté your shrimp in it. Put it on an avocado. Give it as a gift. While I can technically say that the paste keeps for up to six weeks refrigerated, I can also say that I have kept my shallot paste refrigerated for up to two months and counting.
FOR THE PASTE
¼ cup olive oil
1 pound large shallots (about 6–8), very thinly sliced
4 thinly sliced garlic cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1 (2-ounce) tin anchovy fillets (about 12), drained
1 (4.5-ounce) tube or (6-ounce) can of tomato paste (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
10 ounces pasta
1 cup parsley, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
Flaky sea salt
FOR THE PASTE
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high. Add shallots and thinly sliced garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots have become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges, 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Add red-pepper flakes and anchovies. (No need to chop the anchovies; they will dissolve on their own.) Stir to melt the anchovies into the shallots.
3. Add tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste has started to cook in the oil a bit, caramelizing at the edges and going from bright red to a deeper brick red color, about 2 minutes (this is caramelizing the sugars in the tomato paste which will remove the raw, metallic flavor and contribute to a deeper, richer flavor in the end).
4. Remove the paste from heat and transfer about half the mixture to a resealable container, leaving the rest behind. (These are your leftovers to be used elsewhere: in another batch of pasta or smeared onto roasted vegetables, spooned over fried eggs or spread underneath crispy chicken thighs- this paste will be good for up to two months refrigerated, likely more.)
5. To serve, cook pasta according to package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water until very al dente (perhaps more al dente than usual). Transfer to the skillet or Dutch oven with remaining shallot mixture and about 1 cup/8 ounces pasta water. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the skillet to coat each piece of pasta, using a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any bits on the bottom, until pasta is thick and the sauce has reduced and is sticky, but not saucy, 3 to 5 minutes.
6. In a small bowl, combine parsley and finely chopped garlic clove, and season with flaky salt and pepper. Divide pasta among bowls, or transfer to one large serving bowl, and top with parsley mixture and a bit more red pepper flakes, if you like.