Saturday Soul Food: Varun's Spaghetti Pangrattato
I told you in my last post about Varun's fabulous Italian cooking. And I promised you that he would give us more recipes. So here's his delicious spaghetti dish. If you must eat something delicious over the weekend try this recipe. And thank me later :).
Here's Varun's Pangrattato in his own words:
Spaghetti Pangrattato is a typical peasant dish, and comes under the Cucina Povera style of cooking in Italian cuisine. Simply, it is the food of the poor people. Consequently, it is light, nutritious, easy to make, and very, very delicious. It uses things easily available around an Italian kitchen, and there is literally no end to the toppings you can include. My recipe below uses bacon instead of the traditional offal/sweetbreads. And, of course, fresh parsley which is great for relieving headaches, boosting digestion, and aiding the immune system. Parsley also has antiseptic qualities, and reduces internal inflammation caused by spicy food. It even helps your skin smell better in general. It grows very well in pots, so even if you have just a small balcony, you can get one or two. All it needs is regular, moderate watering and about 4-5 hours of sun every day.
Before we go into the recipe proper, a note on the name. Pangrattato means bread crumbs in Italian, and that's what makes this pasta so yummy. Bread crumbs, tossed with some olive oil and melted butter and crisped up in a pan or an oven, make for the perfect textural contrast in an otherwise simple preparation that's not so different from a classic Aglio e Olio.
For two people, you will need:
1. Spaghetti, as much as needed. I usually make a circle with my thumb and forefinger and use as much spaghetti as will fit into this, but then I have long fingers. There really is no correct amount, so just go by feel.
2. Olive oil for cooking (not extra virgin), 2 tablespoons
3. Melted butter, 1 tablespoon
4. Stale bread, 2 slices. Toast them a little to dry them out and then break them into small pieces. Then, give them a turn or two in a blender to make a rough crumble. Set this aside.
5. Bacon, about 150 grams or 8 rashers. Cut it into small bits and place in a baking dish. Bung it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes or till it gets a nice colour.
6. A handful of parsley, finely chopped
7. 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
8. A few fillets of anchovies, mashed with a fork
9. Salt and pepper to taste
10. The juice of 1 lemon
11. Grated Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons (I told you it's a light pasta)
12. Extra virgin olive oil, 3 generous tablespoons
1. To prepare the dressing: In a bowl, mix the chopped parsley and garlic, mashed anchovies, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and the lemon juice. Set aside to infuse.
2. Toss the blitzed bread crumble with the olive oil and melted butter, and crisp it up in a pan or an oven. In an oven, about 4 minutes at 200 degrees should be enough. In a pan, you can see for yourself as the crumbs take on a nice brown colour and become crunchy.
3. Boil water with a dash of cooking oil and when it's merrily bubbling, add in the spaghetti. Cook for 1 minute less than mentioned on the packet. Spaghetti usually takes 8 minutes according to the producers, but I prefer my pasta to have a 'bite', or be, as the Italians say, al dente. So 7 minutes seems ideal to me. At no point should you reduce the flame.
4. Once the pasta is done, drain off all the water and combine the spaghetti, dressing, grated cheese, and bacon bits. All EXCEPT the crispy bread crumbs.
5. Plate the pasta and sprinkle generously with bread crumbs.