wireless_kitchen (2006-03)

Pass the Pasta

A double shot of my favorite food

by Gay Lyons

I have really missed pasta. My daughter Liz claims we ate pasta every night when she was growing up, and that’s not true. But I will admit that we ate a lot of the stuff. We ate penne, angel hair, fettuccini, farfalle or linguini at least four nights a week. At least once or twice a month we ate ravioli (not the canned stuff), manicotti or lasagna.

A couple of years ago, wanting to get rid of the 10 middle-aged pounds that I’d accumulated, I renounced my favorite high carbohydrate foods. I didn’t do an Atkins-y thing. I’m too much of a post-vegetarian to do that. But I cut way back on potatoes, rice, pizza, bread and—my favorite—pasta. It worked. I lost and have kept off those pesky 10 pounds, but while I have missed potatoes, rice, pizza and bread, I missed pasta the most. In terms of sheer enjoyment, I missed pizza and bread—bread, glorious bread—but in terms of having a quick meal to sling together, I’ve missed pasta. 

Lately, however, I’m having second thoughts. I read an interview with Sophia Loren a number of years ago in which she attributed her good looks and health to her pasta consumption. In my mind, that’s a pretty good recommendation. Also, she didn’t mention exercise. My favorite exercise is turning the pages of a book. But since my second favorite exercise is parking far away from entrances and always taking the stairs, I think I should get to live a little—and have a little pasta.

I have often consulted one of my favorite cookbooks While the Pasta Cooks , a wonderful recipe collection that offers tons of inventive sauces that can be created “while the pasta cooks.” But lots of times, I just clean out the refrigerator and serve it with pasta. Take what I cooked tonight, for example. 

I found part of a red pepper and an onion lurking in the refrigerator, so I sautéed red pepper strips and slivered onions. To that, I added some leftover meatballs from a recent party. Then I added some leftover V-8 juice. While these were simmering, I cooked chili-flavored whole wheat penne pasta, which I drained and added to the skillet. I stirred the pasta, meatballs, peppers and onions, topping the mixture with shredded mozzarella, keeping it all on a low flame just until the cheese melted. The result was a good reminder of why I’ve always depended on pasta as a quick and yummy dinner. It also sounds like a good candidate for Rachael Ray’s “30 Minute Meals,” though I’ve never seen her use leftovers from the back of the fridge and I’m definitely a lot less perky than she is.

I’m lousy at deciding how much pasta to cook, but I’ve managed to turn that failing into a plus. I simply figure on getting a double shot of my favorite food. Here’s the method: Cook the pasta for your favorite recipe, using more than you’ll need. Store the leftover drained pasta in an airtight container. Within the next couple of days, make Sophia Loren’s omelet, which is really more of a frittata than an omelet, using the leftover pasta,

Here’s a great double-shot combination. The first recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan’s recipe in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking , the second from Sophia Loren’s recipe which has been reprinted in numerous sources. Keep in mind that I don’t like measuring. If you like precision in these things, consult the cookbooks by Hazan and Loren.

To cook pasta with pesto, potatoes and green beans, based on Hazan’s recipe, figure on half a potato, eight green beans and a couple tablespoons of fairly runny pesto per person. Peel and cube the potatoes. Cut the ends off the green beans and cut them into two-inch pieces. Steam the potatoes and beans. Meanwhile, cook the pasta—any kind—but a generous amount per person and store the extra pasta. (This is my advice, not Hazan’s. You want that double shot, don’t you?) Mix the remaining cooked pasta, potatoes, green beans and pesto. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and top with extra parmesan cheese.  

To cook Loren’s frittata di spaghetti, mix six eggs with all kinds of things. I like to use peppers, onions and mushrooms, but you can use most anything. Pour this mixture into a preheated sprayed non-stick oven-proof omelet pan and cook over medium high heat until the bottom is almost set but the top is still runny. Spread the leftover pasta on top of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the top with shredded parmesan cheese. Cook under a high broiler until browned and done.