I can think of few foods more comforting than a heaping pile of pasta. Throw some Parmesan cheese and sautéed onions in the mix, and I’ll forget the guy from last weekend who never returned my call. Maybe this is why I found I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti so relatable. Or perhaps it’s because, like author Giulia Melucci, I’ve spent endless hours in a tiny Brooklyn kitchen preparing meals for a series of men who just weren’t that into me.
In this delicious memoir, her first book, Melucci chronicles the 20-plus years and five failed relationships she’s had in Brooklyn—each emotional high and low punctuated with a recipe. Beginning in a shared Boerum Hill rental in the early ’90s, she eagerly and earnestly cooks for her first serious boyfriend (Spaghetti Carbonara for two) until the relationship goes sour (Kit’s Drunken Soup for one, which ends up serving none after Kit passes out and his soup scorches on the stove). She prepares her first seder for Ethan (Levana Kirschenbaum’s Sweet-and-Sour Brisket) and for poor Mitch who isn’t really sure what he wants, (Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits).
Each time her heart is broken, Melucci is driven to cook more, and her constantly evolving kitchen skills inevitably cause men to gravitate toward her. When a man 20 years her senior (Dinner of Grilled Marinated Flank Steak to Impress an Older Gentleman) dumps her for a woman 10 years her junior, Melucci enters a not-quite-intentional period of celibacy. As her sexual frustration manifests itself in the kitchen, she perfects No Nookie Gnocchi.
In a fabulous kitchen in Park Slope, Melucci ultimately accepts that, for now, her true love is food. What makes her discovery work so wonderfully is that she’s not jaded or preaching the virtues of being a single woman in her 40s and—refreshingly—she is still hopeful that someday a man will love her as much as he loves her Risotto with intricately Layered Hearts.
Until then, she has the benefit of not waking up in the morning only to find that someone else used the last of the milk.