Spaghetti Frittata with Onions, Pancetta, and Parmigiano

Frittata is an amazing food: main course, appetizer, finger food, snack… whatever time of day, it works, it satisfies, and it is easy to make. Best of all, frittata is an ideal way to use up leftover ingredients. You can add chopped roasted vegetables, diced Prosciutto, bits of runny or firm cheeses, even boiled pasta. Below is a frittata with the flavors of carbonara sauce, a delicious combination of Pancetta, Parmigiano, and black pepper. I add sauteed onions for a delicately sweet note. For a vegetarian version, omit the Pancetta and add 1/2 pound of diced button mushrooms to the onions.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 pound spaghetti
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1/4 pound Pancetta, defatted and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and the spaghetti. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain and place in a bowl.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs vigorously for 2 minutes with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper; the longer you beat the eggs, the fluffier and lighter your frittata will be.

Add the boiled spaghetti before it cools off and starts to stick together, and stir quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, as the spaghetti is hot.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, place 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, the onion, and the Pancetta. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring once in a while, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water if needed to prevent scorching. Add to the eggs and spaghetti in the bowl, stirring quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, as the Pancetta and onion are hot. Stir in the Parmigiano.

At this point, I usually taste for seasoning and adjust as needed; if you are concerned about eating raw egg, you can certainly cook a small portion of frittata first before tasting.

Place the same skillet on a medium flame and brush with 1 teaspoon the olive oil. When the skillet is hot, after about 1 minute, pour in the frittata mixture. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden and the top is set.

Using the lid for easy flipping, invert the frittata onto the lid. Place the empty skillet back on the heat and brush with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Slice the frittata back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Cook, uncovered, for 5 more minutes, or until golden and set on the bottom as well.

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


Fresh Chickpea Salad

Spring brings several pleasures: the lifting of the cold weather, the burgeoning leaves on the trees, the colorful flower bushes lining country roads. But in many ways, for me, the greatest pleasure of spring is the food: ramps, asparagus, fresh fava beans, fresh chickpeas, baby lettuces…. If you’ve never tried fresh chickpeas, don’t wait too long: May is the peak season. Their flavor is gentle and green, just barely reminiscent of dried or canned chickpeas. After shucking the chickpeas, I rinse them, boil them briefly, and dress them with fruity extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper for a simple, sweet taste of spring.


Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 pound fresh chickpeas, shucked
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt and drop in the chickpeas. Cook for 2 minutes, drain, and rinse under cool water. Drain again. Toss with the olive oil, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon the salt, and the pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.


Farinata (Ligurian Chickpea Flour Pancake)

Farinata may be an acquired taste for some people, but to my husband and I, it was an immediate addiction. My family has a home in Rapallo, a bustling, colorful city on the Ligurian Sea, so every year we would spend a week there, enjoying the food and relaxing and visiting nearby towns. One of the foods we discovered in our early twenties was farinata, something my parents never seemed to buy at any of the local bakeries when I was little. This thin chickpea flour pancake has been baked since time immemorial on hot stones, a primitive sort of bread that is hearty, nutritious, and delicious; dock workers in Genova made a simple meal of farinata until the 1950s, when the Italian economy improved, as it is quite filling and rich in protein. The Provencal bake a similar dish, called Socca, likely developed in the centuries Provence was inhabited by Ligurians.

To be truly authentic, farinata should be baked in a very hot oven, quickly, and preferably in a heavy tin pan with a copper base, as copper transfers the heat to the batter faster and prevents it from drying out in the oven. The copper pan is heated for a few minutes on a hot stone in the oven, then olive oil is drizzled on the hot pan, and the batter is poured on: the hot pan quickly heats the olive oil and the olive oil in turn seizes the batter from the bottom, so the farinata emerges from the oven slightly crusty on the outside and still creamy within. The batter needs to rest for 12 hours before baking so the chickpea flour has a chance to fully bloom and slightly ferment. And speaking of chickpea flour: do not buy Indian or Asian chickpea flour, which has a very different flavor and is often toasted; head to an Italian market to buy imported Italian chickpea flour (farina di ceci) for best flavor.

A search of where one can buy a copper-lined farinata pan in the United States left me stumped; I could not find any source at all! So unless you are planning a trip to Italy, where you can easily buy a copper-lined pan, use a cast iron skillet instead, as that will retain and transfer heat nicely.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

  • 9 ounces untoasted chickpea flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus extra for serving
  • 3 and ½ cups room-temperature water
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place the chickpea flour and salt in a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Slowly pour in the water, beating all the while with a whisk to avoid lumps. If needed, strain the batter through a fine sieve to eliminate lumps. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside 12 hours at room temperature. The batter should be as thin as heavy cream and will look slightly foamy.


When you are ready to serve the farinata, preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 550 degrees. Place a 16-inch farinata pan or cast iron skillet (see introductory notes) on the stone in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the oven and pour in the olive oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil.


Whisk the batter vigorously to ensure that it is of the same viscosity throughout; the flour often settles on the bottom. Immediately pour the batter into the hot farinata pan. The batter should be quite thin as it covers the pan, less than 1/4-inch thick. If there seems to be too much batter for the pan, hold some back and make a second pancake with it: if the pancake is thicker than 1/4-inch, it will bake up soggy throughout rather than crispy outside and creamy within.

Place the pan directly on the stone and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until set on the bottom and golden and starting to crack on top. If you like a thick, burnished crust on your farinata, place under a preheated broiler for 1 minute. Serve piping hot, seasoned with salt and pepper.



Potato Pancakes with Ricotta-Basil Pesto

These pancakes are neither crispy nor light. Rather, they are moist and fluffy, with delicately browned exteriors and a sweet, pure potato flavor. There are no eggs added, no flour, no leavening agents; they are essentially mashed potato patties browned in a hot skillet. I love them as a simple first course, but they also make a lovely side dish to roasted meats or poultry, and are very satisfying with assorted cheeses, cured meats, and a light green salad as a main course.

For the pancakes:

  • ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peel on (2 small potatoes or 1 large potato)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing onto the spatula

For the pesto:

  • ¼ cup fresh whole-milk Ricotta
  • ½ cup packed basil leaves, washed thoroughly and dried
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the pancakes: Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 25 minutes for small potatoes or 40 minutes for large potatoes. Drain and cool to room temperature, then peel and coarsely grate on the large holes of a box grater. Set aside until completely cool; ideally, let the grated potatoes rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 4 hours (or up to 12 hours) before cooking the pancakes, so the potatoes have a chance to dry out a bit; this will make the pancakes lighter.

Meanwhile, make the pesto: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste for salt and adjust if needed. The pesto will be quite thick, which is intentional; if you prefer a more fluid pesto, as for coating pasta, add more extra-virgin olive oil with the motor of the food processor running until you achieve a consistency you like. Refrigerate the pesto until needed (up to 12 hours), covering the top tightly with plastic wrap so the pesto does not darken.

When you are ready to cook, add the salt and pepper to the potatoes. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust if needed; it is likely that they will need more salt. Compact the potato mixture into 4 even mounds on a plate and press with your hands to flatten.

Bring the pesto to room temperature when you are ready to serve, so its flavor is not muted by the cold of the refrigerator.

To cook the pancakes: Brush both sides with the olive oil. Warm a 12-inch nonstick skillet over a medium-high flame for 2 minutes, or until quite hot but not smoking. Add the potato pancakes and press gently with a wide spatula (brush the spatula first with olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the potatoes) to compact further into flat pancakes. Cook 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn and cook another 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the bottom. Serve hot, with the pesto.

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