Hey everyone! Claire here.
Movie-wise, romance-wise, comedy-wise, and cookie-wise, The Apartment is one of the best movies ever made. Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond are at their sharp, witty best with the dialog. The scenes just sizzle and snap until you realize the camera hasn’t moved for a full minute and there you are, still entirely engaged.
The story follows your classic everyman underdog, C.C. Baxter, who would be an insufferable invertebrate if it wasn’t for Jack Lemmon’s performance. Baxter has found the perfect way to hasten his climb up the corporate ladder: lending out his apartment as a love nest for the executives. He leaves them a key, then works late while they party with their secretaries. But then things get complicated. Baxter has a crush on Fran, the charming elevator girl played by Shirley MacLaine, who, unknown to Baxter, happens to be tangled up with Mr. Sheldrake, the head of human resources. Sheldrake gets in on Baxter’s little key swap, taking Fran to Baxter’s apartment for an intimate Christmas party. On the heels of promising to leave his wife for Fran yet again, Sheldrake forgets to get her a Christmas present and offers her $100 instead. He slinks out, leaving Fran to break down and consume a bottle of vodka and sleeping pills. Who discovers her but Baxter himself, who was wallowing in self-pity and martinis at the bar down the street.
I’m realizing that this sounds incredibly dark and grim, but somehow Wilder manages to balance the gravity of the situation with bubbly and bright dialogue. Fran makes it through the night, and recuperates over the weekend in the apartment with Baxter nursing her.
One of the sweetest moments is when Baxter prepares a dinner for two. He strains his spaghetti with a tennis racket, stirs up some dry martinis. But, they didn’t get to have dinner that night. I’m not going to give away the ending, but it’s a good one. The drama is all around Baxter and Fran in this film, but inside their relationship, it’s all just banter and calm, quiet moments.
So for Valentine’s Day this year, I’m going to have the dinner-for-two that Baxter and Fran should’ve had: Spaghetti with meatballs… and very dry martinis.
Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 pound ground pork shoulder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated parmigiano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 28-oz. can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- crusty baguette, sliced on the bias to serve
- In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk, and let them sit until the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid (about 5 minutes). Then, add the remaining ingredients. Mix well then form into approximately 18, 1 and ½-inch round meatballs. Set on a tray in the fridge to firm up while you prepare the arrabiata sauce.
- In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic and red-pepper flakes. Cook until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add onions, cooking for about 5 minutes until just turning translucent. Add wine, cook for a minute, then add the tomato sauce. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened (8 to 10 minutes). I prefer a smoother textured sauce, so I puree mine, then return it to the skillet.
- Set a large sauté pan over high heat and add vegetable oil. When very hot, brown meatballs all over, about 2-3 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meatballs to the skillet filled with arrabiata and nestle them in sauce. Cover slightly with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes until very tender.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water 2 minutes less than package instructions for al dente. Drain; add pasta to skillet. Cook, stirring, until pasta is tender, about 2 minutes. Serve, if desired, with Parmesan and red-pepper flakes.
This is a martini for the martini purists.
- 4 oz. gin (I used Plymouth)
- 1 oz. dry vermouth (I used Dolin Dry Vermouth)
- 1 lemon peel
- To make one cocktail, fill the glass with ice, whirl it till dew forms on the glass, pour out the melt, put in another handful of ice. Then as swiftly as possible pour in the gin and vermouth, at once bring the mixture as close to the freezing point of alcohol as can be reached outside the laboratory, and pour out the martinis. Note: If you want to make a batch, just multiply the recipe and mix in a pitcher.
- To finish the cocktail with a little extra flare, squeeze a bit of lemon peel over the glass and, if you like, pop it in. Enjoy in a chilled glass immediately.
Be sure to pin the images above so you can have them on hand the next time you’re whipping up a delicious date night meal.
What recipe would you like to see me make next?
Stay tuned—I’ll be posting more of my favorite classic movie-inspired recipes soon!
Photos: The Kitchy Kitchen