Spaghetti alla Haunted House

July 3, 2012

Ghosts make the pasta taste that much better.

Climb the flight of stairs to the second floor bathroom. If you dare!

My neighbor, Rose, won’t sleep in her own house alone. If you owned Rose’s house, you wouldn’t sleep in it alone either.

The stories are confirmed by impartial parties (the UPS guy, the guy who fixes the furnace, guests just passing through). They’re repeated in hushed tones over glasses of wine on the front porch, beside the old barn, or on the grand lawn with the fireflies flickering in the field. Rocking chairs that rock with no one in them. Lights that go on when nobody’s inside to flip the switch. Bath tubs that fill themselves. Footsteps that pace the length of the attic. Blurry images that pass by out of the corner of your eye.

No, I really don’t need to look in the mirror.

Renovations on the house Rose’s family has owned for generations, however small, seem to irritate the problem. So broken pipes go un-mended, windowsills unpainted and rock walls lay toppled and undisturbed.

Guests come up from the city eager for the spectacular Hudson Valley views and the promises of a quiet night’s sleep.

Personally, I have only climbed the stairs to the second floor once without the addition of at least two (living) friendly faces by my side. I’ve only gone up to the attic in the noonday sun, with a housefull of people, a hand to hold, and my heart thumping. I’ve slept in the house (with a collection of friends) once, and that was before I heard any of the stories of unexplained door-knocking and howling in the halls. I haven’t stayed there since. I do like Rose and pull out when the sun goes down.

Now it might be that Rose is seriously old school about her Italian cooking, tossing strands of pasta from the pot at you for doneness testing (“37 more seconds, Rose!”), or it might be that she herself remains gluten-free so she likes to gluten-it-up big-time for her guests, or it might be the very fact that Rose’s house is haunted that makes her an excellent hostess.

Rose always makes something delicious that feeds as many people as possible. Ideally it’s the kind of something that lulls at least a few friends into a temporary sense of peaceful slumber in one of the handful of guest bedrooms. And if she’s brought no built-in guests up from the city or doesn’t make enough gluten-laden goodies to talk you into sleeping over in the room beside her, then maybe it all was just delicious enough to warrant an invitation over to your house. Somewhere cute. Around the corner. Or a few more miles away than that. Someplace with a sweet bedroom, even a pull-out couch or merely just a sleeping bag on the floor.

Rose is pretty low-maintenance and she isn’t too picky when it comes to her whereabouts after dark, as long as it isn’t at her own house. She’s only too happy to sleep somewhere, anywhere, where someone invisible isn’t marching around on the floor above her, throwing a hissy fit because she fixed the leaky pipes, moved some old furniture out of the house or chopped down a tree that had been dead for decades.


Before the garden’s brimming with fresh vegetables, a simple recipe from the pantry that should be part of everyone’s repertoire. It’s perfect for when you’re feeding an unexpected houseful of living (or un-living) friends and relatives. The recipe easily doubles.

1 pound thin linguini or spaghetti

1/4 cup olive oil (or more if you’re me)

A few anchovies (sneak them in there when no one’s watching)

3 cloves fresh garlic (pulled from the garden perhaps?), sliced thinly

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (15-ounce) can whole baby clams, with their juice

1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed

A fistful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

A chunk of Parmesan cheese and a grater for the table

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, according to the package (or fling a strand to someone across the room and ask his or her opinion on said doneness).
2. In a large skillet add oil, sneak in the anchovies, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook together over medium heat until garlic is bobbing around and anchovies disappear into the oil before no one’s the wiser.
3. Add wine and lemon to the pan and let it cook for a few seconds. Add the clams and juice.
4. Drain pasta and plunk it into a big, pretty bowl. Toss the sauce over it and mix it up for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Season with a little salt, add parsley and serve.
Pass around the chunk of Parmesan for everyone to grate their own. Smile and collectively ignore the unmistakable sound of unseen people playing ping pong in the attic.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John beach

That’s beautiful, jennifer. And rose! Love what you’re creating.


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