Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Delightful Spaghetti Recipe to Remember Julia Child: Spaghetti Marco Polo

Spaghetti Marco PoloWe're living in an age when seeing people cooking on television has become commonplace, but in 1963 when a tall young woman named Julia Child started using television to engage America in her love for home cooking, it was a very unique thing indeed. Many people have cooked on TV in the days since Julia, but few have done it since with such style and such a remarkable sense of humor. I started thinking about that sense of humor as I looked through my one-and-only Julia Child cookbook, From Julia Child's Kitchen wondering what recipe I might make for the Julia Child Birthday Event sponsored by Lisa of Champaign Taste. I missed it last year and I didn't want to miss out again! (Edit 8-16: Here is the link to the Roundup of Julia Child recipes on Champaign Taste.)

What I settled on was this recipe for Spaghetti Marco Polo, where even the name of the recipe is an inside joke, with Julia is reminding us that noodles like spaghetti really came from China, and when she made the recipe on her TV program she urged viewers to eat the spaghetti with chopsticks. Another bit of humor in the recipe is her admonition not to overcook spaghetti: "It's inedible if not cooked enough, but sad when mushy, bite with an alert tooth, therefore." It's those kind of charming comments I remember when I think of Julia. She died in 2004, when there were only a few bloggers writing about food, but I imagine that if she were alive today she might very much enjoy seeing how the love for delicious food is being shared in a whole new way on the internet. When I realized yesterday that I was just about to miss out on making a Julia Child recipe for the second year, I quickly found this recipe, cooked it early in the morning, and ate some for breakfast. I gave the rest to Rand and Bradley when they came over later to help me set up my new computer, and we all completely loved the fresh taste of this dish, which may well become a favorite, since it took only minutes to make. Here's how Julia would have done it.

Julia Child's Spaghetti Marco Polo
((Makes 4 servings, Recipe slightly adapted from one which appeared in From Julia Child's Kitchen.)

1/2 lb. spaghetti (I used Dreamfields Low Carb Pasta for the South Beach Diet.)
2/3 cup toasted pine nuts (Julia used walnuts)
1/2 cup chopped black olives
1/2 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips (I used more basil than Julia did)
sea salt/fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. garlic puree or finely minced fresh garlic
4 T good quality olive oil
fresh grated Parmesan cheese for serving (Julia says two cups, but I got by with a lot less!)

Fill a large pot with water, add a good sized pinch of salt, and heat water until it comes to a boil. While water is heating, toast pine nuts in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes until just starting to brown, drain canned olives and red peppers and chop coarsely, and chop herbs. Combine nuts, olives, red pepper, herbs, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

When water comes to a boil add spaghetti, stir, reduce heat slightly and let pasta cook at a fairly vigorous boil for 8-9 minutes, until barely "al dente" or slightly chewy in the center. You will need to start biting a piece of spaghetti after about seven minutes to tell when it is perfectly done.

When spaghetti is done, drain in a large colander. Heat the olive oil in the same pot you used to boil the spaghetti in, add garlic, and cook just a minute, long enough that you barely begin to smell a garlic smell, taking care not to let the garlic brown. Add spaghetti to the pan, toss to coat with oil and garlic mixture, and season with salt and pepper if desired. (I didn't bother with this since there was salt and pepper in the herb mixture.)

Remove spaghetti to large serving bowl, top with mixture of nuts, olives, peppers, and herbs, and "with dramatic gestures and a large serving spoon and fork, life the spaghetti high to blend with the flavorings before serving it." Serve with chopsticks if you dare, and pass parmesan cheese for each guest to add to their portion.

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South Beach Suggestions:
Made with Dreamfields Low Carb Pasta or whole wheat spaghetti, this spaghetti dish would be a great side dish for phase two of the South Beach Diet, or it could be served as a main course for phase three. Because it's a fairly high-fat dish with the olives, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, I'd probably consider it a "once in a while treat" for South Beach dieters.

More Spaghetti Recipes Julia Child Might Have Enjoyed Reading About:
(Recipes from other blogs may or may not be South Beach Diet friendly, check ingredients.)
Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Arugula
Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti
Puttanesca Pronto from Crash Test Kitchen
Asparagus and Pancetta Spaghetti from Accidental Hedonist
Spaghetti Carbonara from English Patis
Spaghetti with Fresh Clams from Sweetnicks
Black Spaghetti Nests with Zucchini, Shrimps and Ginger from Lucullian Delights
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard Sauce from Almost Turkish Recipes
Spaghetti with Meyer Lemon Zest and Crunchy Sea Salt from Avenue Food
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Swiss Chard, Red Onions, and Pine Nuts from A Mingling of Tastescounter customizable free hit
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More to Chew On:


  1. Oh how I used to love watching Julia! Her very precise directions (“simmer until you see the very first waft of steam…”) were just what every new cook needed. I miss her charm and casual elegance, no one can compare!

  2. Great tribute to Julia! I can't wait to try this recipe. Your photo looks fantastic! Great colors:)

  3. I don't know if I ever saw Julia Child on TV, although I have read much about her. Nice dish, looks really pretty.

  4. Julia was one rocking lady, I am sure she would have been into the food blogging community if she were still with us. Beautiful dish to celebrate her great style.

  5. This sounds and looks delicious. Beautiful colors, intriguing combination of ingredients. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Your spaghetti is looking really good &it's vegetarian too.
    I used to watch some of Julia Child's specials on PBS.She was one great lady!

  7. Hi everyone,
    I never really watched Julia on TV much until she was in re-runs, but her personality really did shine through in this recipe. And what a great blend of flavors. True talent to come up with such a quick, simple combination that tastes so great!

  8. A lovely homage to Julia, whose TV shows really taught me that cooking could be fun. If you're going to add to your Julia library, I'd consider two of her older books based on the later TV shoes -- Julia Child & Company, and Julia Child & More Company. I've used them so often that the spines of the books have fallen apart!

  9. I wish I had known about Julia Child before now. I enjoyed reading your post. And I may be tempted very soon to make the Marco Polo Spaghetti for Freddie

  10. A lovely tribute and a gorgeous looking dish. Perfect for any Presto Pasta Night.

  11. I love that you made it for breakfast!

  12. Geez, Kalyn, I thought I had already left a comment on this post. Guess I just answered your email. Anyway, thank you so much for taking part; I loved your memories of JC and your pasta.

  13. Hi Kalyn, love your tribute! And you're right, she always did paint charming pictures of food with her words, both in print and spoken! The recipe looks divine. These types of dishes are always among my favorites!

    Bon Appetit


  14. That looks fabulous! I always loved watching her, she had expertise, and humor. I still watch her old shows when they are on, and she was just as good as we say she was. She was the real thing!

  15. Wonderful Julia Tribute. Looks delicious....perfect after a long day! :)

  16. "Bite with An Alert Tooth"
    I love that! Thanks for sharing that Julia-ism.

    It's taking me a few days to read all the Julia Birthday Event posts. I really enjoyed yours...


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