On Making Pasta When I cannot go Dancing by Margaux

I miss nightclubs. I love the noise that contains them, the floor trembling before united tapping feet, one silent crowd nodding and smiling as the music carries us towards tomorrow. I don’t go to nightclubs anymore, but I still dance in my kitchen.

I rarely have a pack of pasta in my cupboard, mainly because pasta is not something I cook for myself. I make pasta for celebrating: a dinner for my friends before we head out for the night; a pick-me-up meal for a loved one on a weekday; a cure in anticipation of tomorrow’s hangover, back from a nightclub and early in the morning. The latter is my favourite pasta: sticky yet buttery, almost raw with impatience, an empathic dish. The pasta I shared with friends along the years, standing before the hob, a pan between us and fading stamps on our wrists as our hands rushed to our mouths. Midnight pasta dishes: they’re the ones for breaking rules. 

I keep dancing on my own, ah 

I just wanna dance all night

Can you hear Robyn too? Pasta continues to break rules through the pandemic. 2020 is the year I made fresh pasta for the first time, with bare hands and straight on the kitchen table, a choreography between 00 flour, semolina, water and eggs. I made a mountain of flour and semolina, dug a small crater in the middle and started to break eggs, one at a time, the piercing orange yolk brightening a long weekend at home. I massaged the dough and continued to add yolks until the pasta dough formed a consistent clog. Flours dropped and warmth came through my fingers as I kneaded. My first pasta was shaped in the form of tagliatelle, served at their simplest and saltiest: pasta alle vongole. 

I kept going through the months, anxious fingers flirting with rolling pins, nervous pupils refusing to read the news. Gnocchi, malloreddus, spaghetti, pasta squares – they all were an experiment in search of the fuelling feeling of bouncing my body against a cloud of sound and people’s breathing patterns. I want to dance in the middle of a sweaty crowd, my shoes sticking to the floor. I want to pay in cash to leave my coat at the cloakroom, the £1 coin I left to collect dust by my front door being picked up again, and so for something other than the trolley at the supermarket. Then I want to come back home, eat industrial pasta with a knob of butter and fall asleep. 

On Wednesday 14th April 2021, I went back to the pub for the first time after the 3rd national lockdown. I drank a pint outside in the cold, the tip of my fingers bloodless and my head buzzing, my cognitive skills rotten and incapable of processing the noise. Two drinks in, my partner asked for a menu. We were shown a QR code, the internet loaded slowly, we scrolled through our screens. We were excited to be served a meal, initially. 

“Should we go home and make a quick pasta?” L. broke our spell. 

We returned to the familiar, running up and down the supermarket aisles and soon enough, we were on the way back to our kitchen. One pack of rigatoni pasta, two cans of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and crab meat in our hands. We started with a soffritto: garlic, parsley and a pinch of cayenne pepper gently fried in a pan. We added the canned tomatoes, broke them apart and lowered the heat as we began to incorporate the crab meat. We plunged the crab shell into the sauce and left it to simmer for a good thirty minutes. We brought water to the boil, cooked the pasta, and then we transferred them into the sauce. A top up of fresh basil; a mouthful of tomatoey pasta, the crab meat bringing us closer to summertime, “how good to be home”.

Summer broke on the 19th day of July 2021 in the UK. Government regulations were lifted and nightclubs reopened. I’m too scared to go. Numbers are flying high and I continue to dance before the kitchen counter with my few people. L. and I moved house that same week and found new kitchen cupboards to fill as we gifted ourselves food writer and columnist Rachel Roddy’s latest book as a housewarming present. An A-Z of Pasta is a story of pasta, spanning from history, culture and everyday life. Roddy elaborates on recipes and educates about how to coordinate shapes and sauces together, it’s a brilliant and homely delight in the form of a cookbook. We warmed our home with a midnight pasta the following week – two hungry friends to feed and one of my lockdown playlists blasting through our portable speakers – Rachel Roddy’s farfalle with salmon and mascarpone. We made the “bow-tie” pasta ourselves because pasta never lets the party stop. 

Our new flat is often snowed under with flour, a hopeful mess in favour of the future. We need carbs so we can dance longer; we need carbs because there will be energy to burn again. We’ll be walking home, either after a simple stroll around the block or after a night out dancing, and we’ll sigh at the kitchen table: how good to be home; should we make a quick pasta?

Margaux, August 2021