cherry tomato linguini with megan
First up is my friend Megan Jackson Stoffer, a stylist manager at Fossil Headquarters. Megan’s an avid runner and mother of two, so her style of cooking tends to be quick and fast as she’s on the go working full time and juggling her kiddos and husbands schedules. A go-to favorite is pasta and when she has the time she loves to make her own. Megan chatted with me in her kitchen as we listened to music, a mix of Andrew Belle and Billie Holiday while she made fresh pasta and we talked about Italian food.
"This recipe came from my uncle George-O. He’s the oldest of the 6 boys. And he’s a restaurant guy and a photographer. He was featured a year or two ago in the smithsonian for his photography. This is one of his recipes, cherry tomato linguini. I guess it’s kind of my signature dish now.
I used to make this in college a lot because it was cheap, and it fed me for a few days. It was healthy, and it was yummy. I just like cooking Italian even though I’m more of a Spanish background and grew up with that influence. I think that the ingredients are really pretty and fresh. It doesn’t require a ton of spices like some other foods do. Your house smells better. Like when you cook Mexican food, sometimes it requires cumin and your house stinks like an arm-pit. It’s great flavor, but you know?
I think Italian food is just really beautiful but they share similar colors too. You know the green, and the red, and the white. I also like the traditions associated with eating Italian food, their etiquette. You know with Italians, if you don’t like sop up your plate with bread it’s considered rude. They want to make sure your heart and belly are happy. Italian food feels nurturing and about connection. And simple. With kids, I can knock out Italian and it doesn’t take a lot. I love that.”
"A little trick, salt your garlic. Helps it to dissolve in your sauce better. And then you don’t have to salt your sauce either. You’re basically making a paste out of the garlic. I learned that when I was in high school, I worked in a restaurant for 2 years and he taught me a lot of things. Interesting guy. He was good friends with my parents. He would come over on holidays and make fresh pasta and shave truffles over it. So good. Food has been a huge part of my life for a long time now. I love the meals when all the women in the family, when we’d go to Mexico, would be in the kitchen making masa together. Those memories are strong. But my dad’s the best cook in the world. I think surgeons, doctors, are very similar to photographers and chefs. They’re very precise and technical, they’re almost always a little narcissistic and perfectionist. My dad in the kitchen, his knife skills were gorgeous. He’s a lefty so everything looked interesting too. He’s a grill master. He takes coffee, salt and peppers that he roasts himself to make this rub. It’s amazing."
"I always grew up with music in the house too. It was for the birds, we had pet birds and it’s good for them. (they’re still alive hah). So it was also real loud. And we’d eat real late. I’d come home late from work at the restaurant or the mall and my dad would come home late because he was seeing patients or whatever. It was not unusual for him to come home after 8:00 and we would just cook with music playing and spend time together in the kitchen. I love listening to classics. Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday. When I make this recipe, my kids will help. I like to put them to work with the veggies. Holland likes to help me with my salads. I like to let Dylan peel the potatoes."
What was your best meal?
"I have eaten a lot of really good meals in a lot of really cool places. I would say one of my favorite meals is when Jimmy and I caught some fresh fish on our honeymoon. We went spearfishing and we cooked them right there by the ocean, on the beach, and we ate them with some local plantain chips and it was really delicious. It wasn’t fancy by any means but very memorable and delicious. Good food is always paired with good memories."
I might have to get back to the Stoffer House for round two, because Megan says Jimmy’s ribs are the best in town, with a side of mac n cheese. And that’s basically my love language.
The finished dish was fresh and delicious. The sauce was bright and savory. The pasta perfectly cooked. Garnished with delicious sharp parmesan, cracked black pepper, and fresh parsley. If it’s polite to clean the plate in Italy, as a sign that a dish was really great, then huge complements to the chef, because I licked the plate.
Bonus. For dessert Megan shared some Lavender Custard she picked up at Central Market, drizzled with some honey and dried lavender. The perfect complement of sweet to savory.
C H E R R Y T O M A T O L I N G U I N I
2 crates cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3-4 large cloves fresh garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
1 lb fresh linguini pasta
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Red Pepper Flakes
Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely shredded
In a small sauce pot, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cook until garlic slightly begins to turn a golden color. Add in the halved tomatoes and give it a good stir. Add salt and pepper. Turn heat down to a simmer and cover, stirring every few minutes until the tomatoes start to break down and release their pulp forming the sauce. If sauce starts to stick - add a little more oil and turn your heat down. Keep sauce covered so it doesn't loose too much moisture. To speed up the process, you can smash tomatoes against the sides of the pot. Take it off the heat after about 15-20 minutes and keep covered until pasta is ready.
In a larger pot, bring water to a rolling boil and add a small handful of salt to flavor the water for the pasta. Add in the pasta and boil to instructions. Usually a fresh pasta only takes a few minutes to be al dente. Before straining the pasta, reserve 2 Tbsp of the pasta water and add it to your sauce. Next, strain and then put pasta in desired serving dish or back into the pot. Pour sauce on top and mix into the linguini.
Serve immediately and garnish with chopped fresh Italian parsley, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, Red Pepper Flakes, Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.