$5 Dinner: Spaghetti with Pepper and Cheese & Spicy, Lemony Broccoli
Sometimes I’m a guest on radio shows about various lifestyle topics I feel really passionate about, like how to live a life that feels luxe without breaking the bank. Recently, I was on a show talking about saving money on groceries in November. The segment idea was based on the cost of the holiday meal itself. Many hosts are spending the equivalent of their entire monthly grocery budget on a single meal. And that means having to get by with less than usual on the rest of your meals this month.
Some people know that terrified let’s-rub-two-pennies-together-and-call-it-dinner feeling. It is an insistent, heavy stress to not know where how you’re going to get by. This weekend, when my own future looked uncertain, these old familiar feelings came rushing back, as dogged and insidiously intimate as ever. It’s as if your normal thoughts of are now overlaid with a pertinacious sense of dread. Worry trails you everywhere. On a walk in the park: The yellow leaves sure look pretty. How am I ever going to pay the rent? It’s an unrelenting downer of a companion.
But I had the feeling that the radio host I was talking to had never been in this situation. He couldn’t understand being so low on money that you choose to make your own wholesome, homemade bread with pantry ingredients instead of buying a supermarket loaf for $3.99. His version of roughing it was a grocery store rotisserie chicken. He had probably never chosen dried beans over canned; the necessity of that choice for some was lost on him.
And that’s fine, in a way. I wouldn’t wish the feeling of grocery store poverty on anyone. To worry constantly about money is to lug over your shoulder a sack of bricks that you have to carry everywhere; it immediately affects all aspects of your quality of life. But I did feel, talking to this fellow on the radio, that it is a real badge of honor, and an important life skill to know how to still make your life feel beautiful, your home cozy, and your relationships nurtured with no money. It involves a little creativity sometimes, and often a bit of extra elbow grease. But to know how to create something out of nothing is to feel armed with the sense that you can provide for yourself and the people around you no matter what. And that’s a feeling I wish on everyone.
Spaghetti with Pepper and Cheese
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces dried spaghetti
1 tablespoons butter
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
Cook spaghetti in well-salted water to your al dente tastes in a large, wide-bottomed pot. Drain spaghetti, reserving 3/4 cups of pasta cooking water.
Heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add drained spaghetti and 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and step back, since this will splatter.
Add butter, half of the cheese, and ground pepper and toss together with tongs. Taste, adding more pasta water, cheese, pepper or salt to taste.
Serve immediately, sprinkling with reserved cheese and an extra grind or two of black pepper.
Spicy, Lemony Broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 head broccoli, separated into florets
Steam broccoli until bright green and tender. Heat olive oil over moderately-high heat. Add garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper, and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add broccoli and sauté for just a couple of minutes.