Years ago, my husband and I commuted to each other from two different cities, where we each had our jobs. My standard flight back to New York City would arrive at around 6:30pm, and I would take a 1 hour train ride back to my apartment in Brooklyn; by the time I got there, I was usually ready to gnaw off my own arm from hunger. Generally speaking, it would have been about 5 days since I had set foot there, so I would have no memory of what groceries were in my fridge, or if they’d be any good. So before going home, I would always make a stop in the bodega on my corner, and stock up on those fresh things that they could always be counted on to have: cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and asparagus.
At home, I would put on the pasta pot to boil, and meanwhile sauté some crushed garlic cloves in a generous amount of olive oil, then add the mushroom caps sliced into big chunks and a big sprinkling of salt and pepper. As they started to cook through, I would add the cherry tomatoes, halved, and once they broke down a bit, I would add the asparagus, cut into small bite-size chunks. At that point I would turn down the heat and put the lid on, so that a combination of residual heat plus the steam would cook those asparagus to just crisp-tender.
I have written in the past about how whole-wheat pasta pairs poorly with many traditional sauces, like grandma’s meatballs or a nice cream sauce. But whole-wheat spaghetti was just delectable here, that nutty note standing up to the chord that all the other players were singing. This dish felt like all I needed—my main course, vegetable, and salad all in one—and I could eat a second bowl of it, without worrying that I would feel overly full when I headed to bed, which, given how exhausted I usually was by this point, was not much later.