3 Comfort Food Recipes You Need to Spice up Your Cookbook

Local chefs share their favorite comfort foods

(page 1 of 3)

Home cooking … it inspires memories of happy times with family, brings us comfort, instills in us a sense of being cared for and offers the rich flavors of tradition. And no matter how humble or seemingly simple the dish, the complexities of the emotions evoked with each bite of a favorite home-cooked dish track personal journeys on a plate, telling tales of our histories as flavors dance across our tongues. 

So what are some home cooked meals you’ll always remember? Over the next few pages, three renowned local restaurateurs offer a few of their own favorites and spill the secrets behind how to create these marvelous dishes.

Chef Al Massa, Executive Chef at Marina Café, Destin
Born and bred in New Jersey, this former military man honed his culinary skills working for some of the country’s most famous chefs. Growing up in an Italian family, robust food (and red sauce) runs in his veins, and one of the dishes that still makes his heart dance is his mother’s Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. 

“As with all comfort foods, it’s tied up with a sense of place and family,” says Chef Al. “This dish always reminds me of so many traditional Sunday dinners spent with extended family. … Those Sunday dinners helped anchor us as a family and gave me a great appreciation for family closeness. … My mom would make this as a special treat, because it was one of my father’s favorites, and I learned to love it from him.”

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio 
(Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil) Serves 4–6

  • 1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped 
  • Kosher salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package time, stirring after 1 minute. When only a few minutes remain on cooking time, remove pasta from water, reserving pasta water for later use.

While noodles cook, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook until garlic begins to turn golden brown. Add parsley. Add a ladle of reserved pasta water to stop cooking process and allow flavors to combine.

Add drained pasta to saute pan. Add more pasta water as necessary to finish cooking pasta, letting liquid reduce as pasta finishes and forming a thicker sauce. Season with salt, if necessary, and transfer to a large serving dish. Drizzle with more olive oil and add additional red pepper, if desired.

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