Saturday my son and I decided to treat ourselves to some good old fashioned homemade pasta.
It was a debacle.
From the get go, the signs should have spoken to me. We decided late to delve into the activity and rushed to the market to buy some durum wheat semolina. Mistake n.1: buying 1 kg of durum wheat semolina that costs 99 cents. Back home, things got progressively worse. You can tell right away from kneading that that something went amuck when what was supposed to be a satiny heavy ball of springy dough becomes a vile sticky, fall-apart mass of disgust. We measured the proportions carefully, added that magic drop of olive oil, checked the temperature of the water… nothing. The blob that rested for 10 minutes wrapped in cling film was a bubbly, sticky mass that did not respond at all to kneading or to anything else, for that matter. It just sat there looking perplexed and bothered. Adding more flour (mistake n.2) made it separate like bad mayonnaise.
To mix up the fun and distract from the dough disaster, we decided to use a pasta shaping implement. That was mistake n.3. The implement – perhaps aided by the non-cooperative dough – began producing long, pale and limp ropes instead of the cavatelli it promised. We used knives and chopsticks to extract remaining lumps of it out of the crank mechanism and proceeded to make tagliatelle the old fashioned way. Dusted with copious amounts of flour and disheveled, we rounded up a fair amount for dinner.
Distracted by the amount of foam and stickiness produced by boiling pot of noodles, I burned the easy tomato sauce I’ve been making with my eyes closed for the past 20 years. I managed to scarpe enough to dress the monster bubbling on the stove. It skipped the al dente stage altogether and clumped together floating to the surface like cooked curds. By now my son had resumed playing videogames while I was left on the sinking ship. I served us a plate each and the first bite was ingurgitated in slow motion silence.
We tried. We actually ate a few bites but felt insulted by what was staring at us from our plates.
We ordered takeout pizza and ended up eating our dinner way past my child’s bedtime.
Days like these happen to all of us. Even the most seasoned homecooks goof up something they’ve made endless times.
Yet, given the way I am, I could not bring myself to throwing away that thing (calling it pasta is wrong). I’m not good with food waste. I’ve visited and lived in places where the idea of throwing away food is unfathomable. It has stuck with me, I guess. Discarding food hurts me in a way that is almost disturbing. So I waited for the tomatoey glob to cool and placed it in a rectangular container (like you do with polenta on its way to becoming grilled or fried) with plans to reuse it. And boy was the re-use successful!
Here are 5 ways of repurposing leftover pasta. Even the sunsuccessful kind. Don’t throw away food!
Made too much spaghetti and now there’s a bowl of it sitting in your fridge? Turn it into frittata di pasta! All you need in addition to your leftovers is eggs, a trusted frying pan and olive oil.
Leftover pasta can also become a fine savory tart filling for torta rustica. Chop the cold pasta coarsely and add sauteed zucchini, boiled potatoes, stir-fry greens, roasted asparagus and melty cheese like Provolone, Fontina or Taleggio. Bind together with a beaten egg and pour into a pie tin lined with puff or brisee pastry. Tuck in the oven for 20 minutes. Voilà lunch.
Day old pasta, preferably if tube-shaped folded into homemade bechamel can become sensational timballo! Timballo can be considered the elegant Italian cousin of mac ‘n’ cheese. Pour the pasta and bechamel blend in a buttered oven dish, top with chopped mozzarella and dust generously with grated parmigiano and a few flecks of butter. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes until a lovely golden crust forms. Good luck stopping the kids from licking the dish clean.
I’m a big fan of croquettes, arancini and supplì. These popular fried treats all started as a way to employ leftovers. Leftover pasta can thus be made into croquettes and become tasty finger food appetizers. Whir your leftover penne in the blender, then in a mixing bowl add beaten eggs, grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Shape your croquettes concealing in the heart of each a small cube of fontina or mozzarella (any cheese that will melt producing delicious ribbons). Dip in beaten egg and roll your croquettes in more breadcrumbs and fry in plenty piping hot vegetable oil. Habit forming.
Riso al salto
As crazy as it may sound, I sometimes am left with extra risotto. I know, leftover risotto is an oxymoron. The reasoning behind it is that I always make extra: not in the event, but purposely for further re-use as riso al salto. This dish is a family legacy, one I am very fond of. Riso al salto is comfort food to the nth degree. Mix your fridge-cold risotto with a beaten egg per each person. Warm up a greased skillet and add the risotto, patting it down with a fork to cover the entire pan and form a patty. Let the patty warm up on low heat until a crisp golden crust forms on the bottom surface, then flip it and land it on the other side. If you’re not confident in your “salto” skills, you can use a wide spatula or a large enough lipless lid to upend the pan and slide the uncripsed side of the patty back in the pan. Dust with grated parmigiano and eat without moaning, if you can.
Next time, think twice before tossing away your leftovers!
Do you have favorite fridge-cleaner recipes? Do share in the comments below.
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