Ruth’s Kitchen Therapy and Comfort Food: Painless Pasta

The theme for this week’s I Heart Cooking Clubs is therapy and comfort food.  Ruth cooked her way out of emotionally hard times, so we were tasked to make a Ruth Reichl dish that we find therapeutic—either in the cooking or the eating of it.


It’s the busy holiday season so please forgive me this transgression.  Today I am recycling a post from 2017 when I reviewed Ruth Reichl’s latest cookbook, My Kitchen Year:  136 Recipes That Saved My Life (September 2015).   For my original post and review, click here.

My Kitchen Year:  136 Recipes That Saved My Life  deals with the unexpected demise of Gourmet and how Reichl found herself unemployed and drifting.  That she felt a little unmoored is  an understatement.

Her kitchen saved her:  “And so I did what I always do when I’m confused, lonely, or frightened:  I disappeared into the kitchen.”

The book is divided into seasons and starts with the early fall, as soon as Reichl is called to the Conde Nast offices and told of Gourmet‘s immediate dissolution.  As fall turns into a harsh winter, her food reflects her need to cook and feed.   The comfort that Reichl needed for herself is echoed in the food of these seasons—soups, stews, hearty desserts, roasted shanks of meat, bowls of noodles, gratins, pasta…

As you read, you will feel like Reichl is speaking directly to you and she writes that she wanted the book and the recipes to be written in a “relaxed tone, as if we were standing in the kitchen, cooking together.”

I felt like I was having coffee with her.


Pasta is a true comfort food for me, it matters not if it is doused in marinara, alfredo, or cheese.   It makes me happy and brings me comfort (and perhaps a little therapy as I am whipping it up).

 Painless Pasta

Based on Ruth Reichl’s “Painless Pasta for Three”

I’ve taken a few liberties with the ingredients, but Reichl maintains that you need to seek out the very best mozzarella di bufala and olive oil.


  • 1/2 c. quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil (or as much as you like)
  • 1 lb.  cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella pearls
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place olive oil in a large serving bowl. Slice the garlic and shred a handful of basil leaves into it.Cut the tomatoes in half. Add to the olive oil mixture and let set at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to directions. When it’s al dente, drain and toss it with the olive oil mixture in the serving bowl. Add cheese and toss until its melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve

Yields: 3-4 (or 5-6)

The technique of letting the basil and garlic and tomatoes settle in together for an hour before tossing with the pasta is genius.  So much flavor!

This is a versatile dish and in my opinion it’s certainly more than servings for three.  (Four or five in our household.)   I am sure that if I could have found real mozzarella di bufala this would have been more delicious.   We did enjoy it but I might use goat cheese next time.   I like the bruschetta-ness of this pasta.

The leftovers are just as good cold as a salad.

Join IHCC for next week’s challenge:
December 10th – 16th: Monthly Featured Ingredient/Dish Challenge–Cakes!
(Make a recipe from any of our past or present IHCC chefs featuring any kind of cake–from dessert to pancakes to fishcakes or potato cakes, or whatever kind of cake suits your fancy, Also, feel free to share any of your past favorite cake recipes from IHCC chefs in your post!)


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