Something from nothing – pasta salad



We were away for a week with my aunt Annie and some of my cousins.

It was one of those blissfully perfect beach days, that stretches long into the evening.

So long in fact that we all were sitting with grumbling tummies, still sandy and basking in the  sun at 7:30!


What does everyone want?

No one wanted to go out. No one wanted to go to the store.

But there was almost nothing in the house.

Almost nothing.

Annie said Don’t worry. I’ll whip something up from nothing. Just come over.

Normally, I’d be afraid when someone said this. But not when my aunt said this.

We showered quickly and walked into the house and it was filled with the smells of onions sauteeing, bacon frying, and fresh juicy tomatoes being sliced open.

I’ve got two kinds of pasta, she said.

From the kitchen with nothing came a rich and filling pasta topped with sauteed onions and bacon, salty and fatty and delicious, and a second pasta topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and sauteed summer squash.

We all sat on the floor with plates of pasta and plastic cups of wine.

My cousin’s Ipod was on shuffle, and the breeze blew from the front porch.

It wasn’t fancy, but it was good.

And that’s really what Italian cooking is. Simple. Rustic. Homey. And from basically nothing.

Inspired by that meal, and with bare cupboards after a week away, we whipped up our own something from nothing. A can of black olives, some tomatoes we brought back with us from the farmer’s market and some mozzarella cheese (I’m Italian. There is always some kind of cheese, even if there is nothing in the house), tossed with olive oil and bow tie pasta.

We were listening to the sirens on 2nd avenue instead of my cousin’s Ipod, and the wine was in our new glasses (Thanks Mrs. Follis!) but we were sitting on the floor eating something from nothing.


Pepperoni and String Beans

You read that title, scratched your head, wrinkled your nose and said what?

No, this is not a joke.

This is pepperoni and string beans.

You’ve never heard of it?

I don’t think anyone outside of my dad’s family has really. It’s not an Italian dish. It’s not… well, I don’t think it’s any kind of dish.

Our guess is that my grandma had six hungry kids on her hands and only pepperoni, string beans and some tomato paste in the cabinets and she just shrugged and said, eh, why not?

Did I mention my grandma had six kids, no dishwasher and no driver’s license?

So if the kids were hungry and grandpa wasn’t home, whatever was in the house would have to become dinner. Somehow.

I’m guessing that’s how this concoction came into being.

My mom always makes this down the shore. I’ve never made it for my boyfriend before, not because I think that he’ll think it’s weird, but because I’ve never had it anywhere but down at our shore house.

Isn’t that weird?

There’s certain foods that have such a strong association with certain places that I just can’t imagine eating them anywhere else.

So while we were away with my parents over the weekend, mom decided to make it.

Our kitchen down the shore is equally as itty bitty, just not so city.

So this post comes to you from my mom in her itty bitty but not so city kitchen.

For this dish you will need can of tomato paste, canned string beans, pepperoni (sliced).

You can add as many cans of green beans and as much pepperoni as you need to feed your troop.

The only key here is that the tomato paste be added with water in a 3 parts water to 1 part tomato paste ratio.

Fool proof method? 3 cans of water (using the tomato paste can) per one can of tomato paste.

Ready? Dump everything in a pot.


Cover with a lid and cook over medium. Stir it every once in a while.

It’s the perfect thing to throw together and let hang on the stove while you hang on the beach. Whenever someone goes back to the house for a snack or a potty break, just ask them to give the pot a stir.

The longer it simmers, the spicier the tomato broth gets as the pepperoni seeps into it.

The next day it’s even spicier.


Spoon out into bowls and have some crusty bread ready.

A bowl of this always makes me think of summer at the beach.

What dishes have that kind of association with a place for you?

I’d love to hear them!