Frittata di Spaghetti e Asparagi

 
Time for another round of Cucina Conversations! This month all of our recipes are vegetarian, perfect for anyone who is abstaining from or eating less meat in the Lenten season, or for any vegetarians you might find yourself cooking for (I personally can count 6 vegetarian friends off the top of my head). 

Let's talk leftovers! While your instinct may sometimes be to overlook your meal on the second day -- after all, its a bit been there, done that, sometimes not quite as good after a night tucked in to a Tupperware in the fridge -- think again! Leftovers have the potential to be reinvented, becoming the base for a completely different and delicious dish. A surplus of mashed potatoes or squash are excellent when revived as savory pancakes; risotto, never as good as it is when eaten fresh off the stove, makes a surprise comeback as crispy, cheessupplìThis also applies to leftover ingredients -- the now slightly dry loaf of bread you didn't finish at dinner last night can be reborn as canederli, panzanella, french toast, stuffing, croutons, or bread pudding; leftover wine goes great in a hearty ragù or, if you're in the mood for something sweet, a red wine chocolate cake or truffles; that bunch of overly ripe bananas are given a second chance in the form of banana bread. 

The frittata di pasta is a Neapolitan dish, one that came about as a way to, you guessed it, make use of leftover pasta (which I find inevitably dries out in the fridge and is never quite what it was the next day). That being said, I think you'll find yourself making more pasta than necessary on purpose once you've tried it -- it's pretty darn good. Here we've got our aforementioned spaghetti, revitalized and reminiscent of carbonara in its eggy-ness, dotted with pockets of gooey scamorza that contrast nicely with the sharp salty bite of the Parmesan cheese. A sprinkling of Springy green asparagus adds a little freshness and color, and the bits of spaghetti on the top become extra crispy and brown, contrasting splendidly with the fluffy frittata interior. This is perfect served warm or at room temperature, for lunch, dinner, or even brunch, and the leftovers of this frittata made of leftovers are great the next day, too. Bottom line: if you have vegetarian friends who need feeding and pasta to use up, well, then we've killed two birds with one stone. This is the recipe for you. 

A couple of notes: This recipe is super flexible. Feel free to use any cut of long pasta you want here -- bucatini, tagliatelle, or fettuccine should work great. I imagine a shorter cut could work too, but you might want to chop the pasta up a bit. Leave out the lemon zest if you want (I think it adds a nice freshness but you might not have it on hand) or substitute Pecorino for the Parmesan, or mozzarella, provolone, or anything else you want for the scamorza. Use any kind of vegetable you'd like, or use half an onion instead of a shallot. If you're not making this with vegetarians in mind, feel free to add a bit of pancetta, bacon, sausage, or guanciale. If you have leftover pasta that has sauce on it, no matter! The flavor of this frittata will just be different, and you'll want to adapt the other ingredients you add in to match it. Lastly, you can also bake this in greased muffin tins for mini frittate di spaghetti.

Be sure to check out the vegetarian recipes prepared by my fellow Cucina Conversations bloggers!:

Rosemarie over at Turin Mamma has prepared carciofi trifolati which are both vegan and vegetarian!; 

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet is sharing her recipe for farrotto (risotto-style spelt) della Garfagnana, carciofi e pecorino;


Lisa aka Italian Kiwi has made a torta salata con zucca e radicchio;


Carmen at The Heirloom Chronicles has fried up some crochette di patate e cicoria;


Flavia from Flavia's Flavors is sharing a recipe for torta rustica di spinaci;


Last but not least Marialuisa over at Marmellata di Cipolle has made 
pasticcio di bieta e formaggio.

FRITTATA DI SPAGHETTI E ASPARAGI

Ingredients:
1/4 pound (112 grams) uncooked spaghetti (about 1/2 pound or 224 grams cooked)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
8 large spears asparagus, tough ends cut off, and sliced diagonally 
6 eggs
1 cup (110 grams) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (about 85 grams) scamorza cheese, diced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
If you're starting from scratch here: cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain the pasta and toss it in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat another 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and add the shallot and asparagus. Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste (not the 3/4 teaspoon salt mentioned above -- save that for later) and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Let the vegetables cool slightly. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a few generous grinds of pepper, and the Parmesan. Add the pasta, asparagus, scamorza, and shallot
 
Toss everything together. Heat two tablespoons of oil in your skillet over low heat, turning the pan to make sure its well greased, and add the resulting egg-pasta mixture to the skillet.  Flatten the top a little with a wooden spoon to even things out. 
 
Let the frittata cook, undisturbed, so that the bottom and sides can begin to set, about 5-7 minutes. When the sides seem to be setting, they'll pull away easily from the sides of the pan if you try and move them with a fork.
 
Transfer the skillet to the oven and let cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the top of is set and slightly browned. Let the frittata cool slightly. (Special thanks to Kathryn Kepler for the homemade oven mits, in the below photo!)
 
Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and then invert the it on to a plate. Cut in to slices and enjoy immediately. Serves 4-6
 
 




Best Ever Lemon Tart


When I was in college, I ate my fair share of junk food, or, to use the more fun Italian word, schifezze. The consumption of things like ramen noodles, PopTarts, and Easy Mac is after all part of the college experience, the lack of home cooking reminding you that you're off on your own now, fending for yourself and thus making a few questionable food choices, because you can. My roommate and I periodically bought and shared large boxes of Peanut Butter Crunch cereal; the dining hall's most popular dishes were tacos and chicken parmesan; the campus Lobby Shop kept students stocked with candy bars, potato chips, ice cream, and my personal favorite, Golden Graham Treats. You're probably not familiar, so let me explain: the Golden Graham Treat was a large bar of golden graham cereal, held together by melted marshmallows and chocolate, decorated with milk chocolate chips. It was sugary, chewy, and crunchy, all at the same time, and I loved them. They were perfect fuel during exams and paper writing, but when I graduated college and moved to Italy, we lost touch.

I crossed paths again with my beloved GGTs not long ago, during a recent trip to the States. Delighted at our reunion, I bought two, one to enjoy right away and the other to snack on later. As I bit in to my Treat and chewed, I decided the recipe must have changed -- what I was eating was stodgy, too sweet, and artificial tasting, nothing like the GGT of my college days. I wrapped up the rest of the Treat, realizing, as I have more than once, that the recipe for Golden Grahams have not changed, but rather, my taste buds have. My diet in Italy, unlike my college years, consists of lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, pasta, and cheese, and as a result my taste for sugar has waned; I'm no longer used to things are that are processed, packaged, or generally overly sweet. When it comes to desserts in particular, I have found a new appreciation for things that are subdued, on the simple side, and just sweet enough. 

So, what is the connection between Golden Graham Treats and this Lemon Tart?! It is a perfect example of a dessert that I would never have appreciated before, back in my sugar-high days; in fact, the pre-Italy Francesca would pick a milk chocolate-y or frosting-laden dessert over a lemon one any day, finding the flavor too sour and sharp. I only began to notice the beauty of a tangy, citrus-y dessert in the past few years -- discovering things like Lemon Squares and Lemon Poppy seed Cake -- and oh how I've been missing out! 

Now, to today's post! This lemon tart is The Lemon Tart, or rather the lemon tart to beat all other lemon tarts, a tart possessing all of the qualities befitting of a perfect lemon dessert: here we've got a silky smooth, tangy filling, with just enough sweetness to let all the citrus flavor shine, vibrant and sunshine-y and happy (if a dessert could have moods and emotions). The tart crust, so often an afterthought, is crisp and  shortbread-like, capable of complementing but not overwhelming the A+ filling. This tart is a splendid way to celebrate the start of Spring, or to ward off any remaining Winter gloom if temperatures are still chilly where you are (sorry, Rhode Island). It is a lovely end to a fancy meal or just as an afternoon treat with tea. I loved it and I think you will too.

A couple of notes: I find that tarts with a liquid filling such as this can be a bit tricky, as you pour it in to the crust, then have to transport the whole thing to the oven. Learn from my mistakes: place the tart shell and pan on a baking sheet, transport that baking sheet to the oven rack, and pour the filling in directly, then close the oven. I found that the crust here shrinks a bit down the sides of the tart pan when baking, so make sure that it goes all the way up the sides of the tart pan to anticipate this. I found I had a pastry and extra filling (indeed, just pour enough filling up to fill the sides of the tart crust). As you can see in the photos below, I used the excess pastry and filling to make two mini lemon tarts (tiny tart pans purchased at Tiger). You could probably also do this in greased muffin tins.

Looking for other not too sweet desserts? I've also got: Lemon Squares, Lemon Ricotta Olive Cake, Lemon Poppy seed Cake, Chocolate Souffle Cake, Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake, or Chocolate Loaf Cake. In search of other tarts? Check out this Dark Chocolate Tart, this Pear and Chocolate Custard Tart, these Berry Tartlets, this this Honey Pinenut TartStrawberry Jam Tart, or these savory ZucchiniCherry Tomato, or Butternut Squash tarts. Want some more recipes for my picks for the best of the best of their kind? Check out this perfect apple cake, these magnificent brownies, and these spot-on chocolate chip cookies

BEST EVER LEMON TART

Ingredients for the tart crust:
2 cups (250 grams) flour
1/2 cup (70 grams) powdered sugar
8 tablespoons (125 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg yolks

Ingredients for the filling:
5 eggs
3/4 cup (140 grams) sugar
2/3 cup (150ml, 11 tablespoons) heavy cream
Juice from 2-3 lemons (3 1/2 ounces of liquid, or 98 grams)
2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions:
To make the tart crust: Mix the flour and powdered sugar in a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until crumbly (you can also use a food processor for this if you want -- pulse the flour and butter together a few times). Mix in the egg yolks. If the pastry is still too dry, add 1-2 tbsp water until it comes together. Roll into a ball and flatten out the pastry with your hands. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or aluminium foil, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

While the tart dough is chilling, make the filling: Beat all the ingredients, except for the zest, together. Sieve the mixture (though if you don’t do this step because you don’t have a sieve that’s probably fine) then stir in the zest.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface (to about the thickness of a 1 euro coin, if that helps) then lift into a 23cm tart pan that is lightly buttered. Press down gently on the bottom and sides, then trim off any excess pastry. Stab a few holes in the bottom with a fork and put back in the fridge for 30 mins.
Heat oven the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius). Line the tart crust with foil and fill with rice or dried beans. Bake for 10 mins, then remove the tart pan from the oven, discard the foil, and bake for another 15 or so minutes. 
When the pastry is ready, remove it from the oven, pour in the lemon mixture and bake again for 30-35 mins until just set. 
Leave to cool, then remove the tart from the tart pan and serve at room temperature or chilled, dusted with powdered sugar. Serves 10-12.
Recipe from www.bbcgoodfood.com.