The Old Spaghetti Factory's Spaghetti with Browned Butter & Mizithra Cheese
One of the franchise restaurants I like to eat at is The Old Spaghetti Factory. I've eaten at the franchises in Vancouver, Toronto, and Winnipeg, and I've always found a consistent high quality. This is something to be cherished, in a restaurant franchise.
(I know they started in the States, but my experiences have been mainly with the Canadian franchises. I still think folks should check them out.)
I like the fact that they sell complete meals -- soup or salad, pasta dish, dessert and coffee -- for a set price that's actually pretty low. One dish in particular that I like -- because I have yet to find another restaurant serving it -- is spaghetti with browned butter and Mizitha cheese. ("Legend has it that Homer lived on this toothsome treat for cheese lovers while composing the Iliad. ")
There's something to be said for dressing pasta up simply, rather than using an elaborate sauce. Italians have been known to eat pasta with garlic and black pepper, or garlic and grated cheese. This dish falls into this category--not too heavy, not too light.
Mizitha cheese, of course, isn't something available off the grocery shelf; you need to find a specialty shop. (Of course, if you walk into a shop that says it sells cheese and you find a couple of Greeks dancing in the corner, it won't be there--because you just walked into a Monty Python sketch.) [Ed. note: you couldn't resist that one, could you?] [Sorry!--UrP].
But a shop that sells Greek foodstuffs, or a real cheese specialty store (I found mizithra at a deli in the Byward Market in downtown Ottawa), should have it, since Mizithra comes from Greece. Like feta, it's made from goat's milk. (It also tastes quite a bit saltier than feta, so a little does go a long way if you've never tried it before.) You want to get the aged type, as opposed to the fresh kind which looks like cottage cheese, because aged mizithra lends itself well to grating.
In terms of servings, I've found that if I make an O with my thumb and index finger about the diameter of a 2-dollar coin, I can fit enough dried spaghetti for a one-person meal.
So here's how I duplicate the Factory recipe (for 1 middle-aged person):
Spaghetti with Browned Butter & Mizithra Cheese
1 small handful dried spaghetti
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter (1/2 stick or less)
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced as close to paper-thin as you can (optional)
grated mizithra cheese
1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
2. About halfway through the cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan or omelet pan. Add the garlic and gently cook until brown.
3. When the spaghetti is done, drain and put the pasta in a serving platter. Pour the melted butter and garlic over the spaghetti and toss, then add the mizithra cheese on top.
About the amount of cheese to use, there are times when the Factory overdoes it. If you've never tried mizithra before, I'd recommend no more than 2 tablespoons for your first try.Ideally, for a complete meal you accompany this with a green salad. Spumoni ice cream and coffee come afterwards.