Cheap, Sustainable, Delicious: Leftover Gourmet Pasta
One of my all-time favorite dinners is delivered pizza. It helps that I live in New York, where we have really good pizza just about everywhere. The pies that come from Antonio’s, the place down the block, are crispy-crusted, well-sauced full moons of New York-style perfection. Yum.
If there is one thing I love more than a delicious alternative to having to cook dinner, it’s cold pizza for breakfast. I rank it right up there with cold Chinese food straight out of the white, cardboard container. So the added bonus to ordering a hot, steaming pizza for dinner is the cold, not-so-crispy pizza with coffee in the morning.
Except, the crust is no longer any good. It’s too chewy and limp and not worth the jaw-aching effort required to get through it. But the dough they use at Antonio’s is pretty good stuff! It makes for top-notch bread crumbs.
A while ago I was working in the test kitchen of Gourmet Magazine. There, I had a colleague who was crazy for breadcrumbs. She used to give away quart containers of crumbs for Christmas. Seriously. This made her the butt of many jokes. It has to be said, however, that a quart of breadcrumbs stashed away in the freezer can be a very powerful tool. Sprinkling them on sautéed vegetables and over gratins adds a surprising amount of production value to the dishes with little effort and practically no added cost. They’re like micro-croutons. My favorite use is to toss them with some spaghetti and anything else that happens to be laying around the kitchen. A little lemon zest, parsley, olive oil and garlic alone would make for fairly drab pasta fare, but add the crunch from a handful of bread crumbs and you’ve got a first-class lunch.
To make the breadcrumbs, I tear the bread (or pizza crust in this case) into 1-inch pieces and whiz them up in the blender. You could use a food processor, but the crumbs are finer with a blender, which I prefer. If you’re not using them right away, toss them with enough olive oil to saturate them, spread them on a baking sheet, and toast them in a 400°F oven, stirring them occasionally, until they are golden. This will take 8 to 10 minutes. Store them in a sealed container in the freezer.
Bread Crumb Pasta
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 lb pasta
Stir together oil and crumbs in a large heavy skillet over medium heat and cook, until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook stirring until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in zest, juice, and cheese.
Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta. Toss pasta with crumb mixture in skillet and thin with some of pasta water if desired.