The One Simple Thing Bringing Joy to My Endless String of Pasta Dinners

published May 7, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Amelia Rampe

Even before the stay-at-home orders went into effect in March, I’d been mostly practicing the same behaviors — not leaving my house, limiting contact with the outside world — since January. You see, I had a baby (my first!) at the start of the year. And, as Editor-in-Chief Faith so perfectly outlines here, having a newborn at home is eerily similar to the act of self-isolation so many of us are experiencing now.

Read more: Everything Helping Me in Home Isolation I Learned from Having a Newborn

Adjusting to life with a new, tiny baby meant that my usual way of feeding myself — grocery shopping almost every day, spending hours in the kitchen — was not going to work anymore. Grocery trips were few and far between, and to account for that I ordered a large stock of pantry-friendly staples (like boxed pasta and jarred marinara) online. I quickly learned that boiling some pasta and opening a jar of my favorite sauce was the extent of “cooking” that I could manage. My husband and I ate so much pasta while we navigated those first months of infant life — and then, just as we started to find our footing, we emerged to a world in the midst of a pandemic.

While we’ve been quarantining at home, we are once again turning to pasta to get dinner on the table. We still aren’t going to the grocery store (related: Thank you to the delivery workers bringing us groceries), so all those boxes of pasta in our pantry continue to come in handy night after night. You’d think that, after eating pasta for most meals for the last five months, we’d be sick of it, but surprisingly we’re not — and I owe it all to one kitchen tool.

How the Microplane Is Bringing Joy to Our (Many) Pasta Dinners

No matter what type of pasta we’re eating — marinara, pesto, cacio e pepe — I always top it with some Microplaned Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. Using a Microplane to grate cheese is a common use for the kitchen tool, and for good reason: It creates what can only be described as “fluffy cheese clouds.” If you hold the Microplane over your bowl of pasta, the light wisps of cheese flutter down and start to melt on contact. Once you stir everything up, the cheese blends in seamlessly — adding a hint of sharp, salty goodness to every bite. This seemingly simple addition takes what might be a ho-hum meal and always makes it feel just a bit fancier and more special.

But beyond those cheese clouds, which bring me an inordinate amount of joy, I’ve also been using the Microplane in various pasta sauces. Now that we’re moving into warmer months, with fresh produce starting to hit its peak, I’ve taken to using the Microplane to grate garlic into a raw tomato sauce, or ginger into a tamari-sesame dressing for cold soba noodle salads.

I’m not sure how long we’ll be isolating at home, but as long as we are I’ll be here, eating my hundredth bowl of pasta and pulling out my Microplane every time.

So tell me: Do you own a Microplane? What’s your favorite way to use it?

This Microplane also made our Kitchn Essentials list of the tools and gadgets that Kitchn editors believe will help you cook better in 2020. See the whole list here.