What to cook tonight: The most comforting bowl of Asia-inspired noodles

Fettucini meets Asia? Is this madness? Or genius?

You can argue about whether Marco Polo, during his long stay in China, “discovered” pasta and brought it back to Italy (seems like, uh, no, he didn’t). But you cannot argue that dried pasta in Italy helped keep people fed during the lean 1600s in the Italian boot. (Food made by people without much money in hand is usually the best. I don’t know why.) And it is true that the New World tomato became a huge hit in pasta dishes in the 1500s in Italy.

Still, Asia had its own versions of pasta, made not from wheat noodles (at least at first — there are some famous northern Chinese and modern Japanese dishes now that use wheat flour), but from pastes made of rice or mung beans.

Pasta, in fact, is a word that comes straight from the word for paste. That’s a party trivia factoid for ya.

You could certainly make this with noodles made from rice or mung bean, or the latest variations you find in stores made from soba, quinoa, or chickpeas.

But, for my money, ounce for ounce, fettuccini with this Asian-inspired peanut sauce, doubles the comfort level. A warm bowl of this and a glass of sparkling water, and I’m delirious. It actually is so comforting I want to eat it on the couch surrounded by pillows and my cats.

Sesame peanut sauce for pasta

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Get some well-salted water boiling for your pasta. While it comes to a boil, In a blender, or bowl of a food processor, combine: 

  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter

  • 1/2 cup tahini paste

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

  • 1/3 cup warm water

  • 1 tablespoon chopped 1-1/2 inch knob of peeled fresh ginger

  • 3 scallions roughly chopped

  • 3 medium garlic clove

  • Juice from 1 whole lemon

  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1/8-1/4 cup hot chile paste

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Make up some whole wheat fettuccini until it’s perfectly cooked (just a little bite left), and toss with sauce and barely cooked pea pods.

Top with crushed peanuts. black sesame seeds, and marigolds.

Sharing this at the table

So, if your plan is not to eat this on the couch, but serve it for family or guests, you’ll probably want to offer some accompaniments.

Got your back.

Cucumber, radish, red onion and lime zest with chili pepper olive oil drizzle

The title of the dish tells you the ingredients. Slice them beautifully. Arrange them as you see fit. Note the lime gets sliced up, too, after you’ve zested them and sprinkled the zest over the dish.

You’ll also see the beautiful, ruby-colored Aleppo flake I dusted it with. You know me and my Aleppo flake.

Is this a salad? Or just something to spoon over your pasta as you see fit?

Doesn’t matter. This is a zero-fuss dish to eat.

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Paul WardComment