How I Fell in Love with Jamie Oliver

OK, so on March 23, I finally gave in and made my first Jamie Oliver recipe. I don’t know why, but for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I had never really researched much about Jamie Oliver or his cooking. I had been mildly intrigued by the very little I had been exposed to his products, but I had also been mildly put off – mainly because I assumed I wouldn’t like much of his food. His food seemed to be too full of flavors that I thought I already knew. The combinations of flavors either seemed too familiar or unappetizing to me. So how did I finally come around to making my first Jamie Oliver recipe?

Of all places, I first saw it on Joe Jonas’s Twitter. Don’t ask what I was doing there in the first place. Anyway, apparently he likes to cook, and, apparently, he likes Jamie Oliver. I noticed they had even tweeted back and forth. Of all the places. Clearly, this is going to be an interesting story, right?

I remember the photo of the recipe looking pretty appetizing – both on Joe’s Twitter feed and on Jamie’s Web site. Olive oil, crushed tomatoes (recipe calls for chopped tomatoes, I crushed a can of whole canned tomatoes with my hands), fresh basil, garlic, a red chili pepper, Parmesan cheese, and fresh pasta – not homemade, just fresh. Usually, recipes like this don’t appeal to me often because, hello!? I totally know what tomatoes and basil taste like together, right!? – and I’m not often in the mood for such a fresh sauce of tomatoes and basil. I love Caprese salad, I love dried basil in my tomato sauce – just never been huge on fresh tomato and basil pasta sauces. Of course, they’re good, but I don’t usually crave them, and I do usually bypass those recipes because I think to myself, well, I can totally do that, I don’t need a recipe. Also, as many who know me might be able to tell you, I’m not what you would call a stickler when it comes to following recipes. All of this being the case, I have no idea exactly what about this recipe so called out to me that I had to make it as soon as possible. But something definitely did. Maybe it was that I was so intrigued by the use of a chili pepper. It’s true, I definitely was intrigued by that. I must say, I even made special trips to two stores, on opposite sides of town mind you, to get that red chili pepper. (Admittedly it was very odd that the first store didn’t have any.)

Look at the chili pepper! It's so red! And shiny!

Home from the store, it was time to cook. All the ingredients were laid out on the cutting board and my pan was on the stove. I followed the recipe exactly. This is significant because that means I didn’t even add more garlic than the recipe called for. See? Like I said, significant. :) Probably unsurprisingly I was intoxicated by the scent of the vegetables and fresh basil hitting the hot olive oil-glossed pan. I would say that’s when I officially fell in love with Jamie Oliver, but, as I’ve learned sometimes the hard way, just because it smells heavenly as it’s cooking that doesn’t ensure the most heavenly end product. I was worried I may have burned the garlic a little, but it didn’t taste bitter. The house smelled amazing – I really think it must be the garlic in olive oil. Of course, it all goes back to the garlic. In the meantime, I cut the lasagne sheets into “pappardelle,” as instructed and cooked the fresh pasta.

The most heavenly end product!

So finally it was ready. So simple, yet so good. Amazingly good. It really surprised me. It tasted so quintessentially Italian –  good Italian – simple, fresh, and rustic. I could taste the tomatoes, the richness of the oil, the garlic, and faint hints of the red chili pepper that lent earthiness and freshness. There was no real heat from the chili. I did remove the seeds, so next time I will leave some, if not all, in. And the basil was awesome, too – so fresh. The Parmesan added a nice but subtle richness and nuttiness. I literally could taste all of the elements – all of the dimensions. This really impressed me actually. So yummy. And the flavor of the fresh “pappardelle” was eggy, doughy, and just plain yummy.

And that, kids, is the story of how I fell in love with Jamie Oliver. However, the story doesn’t actually end there. As it’s continued, you’ll see how my love and appreciation grew deeper and deeper and how I’ve come to the point where I can say, “In Jamie Oliver I trust.” This isn’t, of course, to say I’ll never find a recipe of his that I won’t be mad over, but I have a feeling that the hits are going to heavily outweigh the misses. So the moral of the story is this: if you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with Jamie Oliver, do it. Now. And here is the link to the recipe on his site just to make it super easy for you. Thank you, Jamie, for opening my eyes, pleasing my palate, and making me come down off my high tomato and basil horse.

  1. Why I Love Jamie Oliver, Installment 3 « Oh, I like you, food.

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