Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Loving the Leftovers
Since starting this blog a couple months ago it's become evident to me that we tend to eat the same dinners over and over. In any given week one night will almost definitely feature paht thai, and another is likely to feature spaghetti and meatballs.
(A note about meatballs: although I'm all about eating locally, sustainably and seasonally, there are a few convenience foods I might actually purchase, were they to exist, like frozen, pre-cooked meatballs made from pastured beef. I have never found these anywhere, but it would be great to keep a package on hand for last-minute meals. Instead I make my own meatballs in giant batches, cook and freeze them for quick reheating: DIY convenience food. For just those times when the meatball bag is empty and the guys are too starving to wait for -- and I'm too exhausted to assemble -- scratch-cooked anything, I stash a package of Applegate Farms uncured, grassfed hot dogs in the freezer. Hey, on those nights, it's either that or popcorn for our evening meal; peanut butter sandwiches would be a fantastic dinner alternative, except on those nights we are also invariably fresh out of bread).
Anyway, the guys often request skeddi (as Coley calls it) and meatballs. I usually cook an entire pound of pasta, even though we eat maybe a third of it for dinner, because what I really look forward to is the next day: Skeddi Pie. Or, as my Neapolitan landlady used to call it, torta di pasta.
I've never actually seen a recipe for this, though I'm sure you can find anything on the ol' innerwebs. It's one of those something-from-nothing dishes that Italian cooks seem to emerge from the womb already proficient in throwing together. It's brilliant with any kind of left-over pasta, from short or tube pastas to long strands, even if the pasta is already dressed in tomato, cream or any other sauce. This recipe can also make use of many other odds and ends you might have lingering in the fridge. It's fast, simple, and inexpensive, and best of all really really delicious. Also highly portable -- it's one of my favorite picnic foods.
Basically, once the pasta is tossed with the eggs and Parmesan, you can toss in whatever you've got loitering around: leftover roasted vegetables. Artichoke hearts. Sun-dried tomatoes, or chopped fresh ones. Anchovies or sardines. Olives, capers, marinated mushrooms. Pennies. (Just seeing if you were paying attention).
Torta di Pasta
4 cups cooked/cooled pasta (approx 1/2 lb, a little more or a little less is fine)
3 eggs, beaten,
1 cup grated Parmesan or Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
Add-ins: at least throw a handful of sliced scallions in there, or some olives, but really anything goes -- as little or as much as you like.
Oven to 375.
In large bowl, combine pasta with all ingredients (except add-ins). Using your hands for best results, and also because it's fun, mix gently but thoroughly. Fold in scallions, olives, etc.
In a large (9 or 10 inch) ovenproof skillet (cast iron is brilliant for this), heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When pan is very hot, pack pasta mixture into the pan as evenly as you can. Cook over medium-high for about 3 minutes, until starting to brown on bottom. Run a spatula around sides and underneath to loosen torta and prevent sticking. Slide into oven for 15-20 minutes, until middle is firm to touch in center.
I usually serve this straight from the pan, but you can run a spatula under and around the cake to loosen it and then invert onto a platter.