The 20-Cent, 3-Minute Way to Make Leftover Pasta Delicious
Maybe you already know this trick, but it’s worth repeating: The incredible, edible egg is key to reviving ho-hum leftover pasta.
Chefs and food writers can be a pretty snobby bunch when it comes to leftover pasta. Cookbooks will say to serve pasta immediately, rushing it to the table, and to discard leftovers because they’re so sub-par the next day.
Sure, pasta is best when fresh, and yes, you should be saving some of the water you cook it in to make a sauce silkier. But in a pinch, say if you have three ounces of leftover pasta primavera in the fridge that’s gotten cold and unpliable as the noodles stuck together, you’ll want a quick, easy way to revive them.
I’d leave the microwave where it is, untouched, and turn to a nonstick frying pan and an egg.
There’s nothing like egg yolk for a pasta sauce. You know this if you love carbonara, in which noodles are spun with raw egg and guanciale or bacon for a dreamy, easy dinner. The yolk adds a certain sultry quality that cream can approximate, but you’d need a ton of it. So what I do on hot summer days is simply bust out a whole egg, my leftovers, and whatever fresh and salty accents I can find. Got Parmesan or Pecorino Romano? Great. Have fresh, soft herbs in your garden or on your fire escape that you could sprinkle on top? Awesome.
I had my go-to summer pasta of sautéed summer squash and zucchini tossed with tomatoes and fettucine. It looked thoroughly unappetizing in its leftover container. But I added a thin pat of butter to my skillet and got it really hot over high heat. I plopped the leftover pasta on one side of the pan and cracked an egg into the other. I immediately lowered the heat to low and covered the pan, waiting for the yolk to set, about 2-4 minutes. When it was set and the pasta was warm, the noodles went into a bowl that I dusted with Parmesan and roughly chopped fresh sage, basil, and thyme. The fried egg went on top of the whole, sprinkled with Maldon salt while the yolk was hot (which is key). I cracked black pepper over the whole thing. Suddenly I had a much more appetizing dish in front of me.
The finishing touch? Break the yolk—if you cooked it properly it will ooze beautifully over your noodles—and swirl the whole thing together, like a carbonara you make in one bowl.
I’m not the first to think of this trick, but I do love it. It’s cheap, cheerful, ready in less than 5 minutes, and doesn’t heat up your whole home. It doesn’t get much more summery than that.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.