Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
Welcome to My Kitchen
If you have been following me for a while, you will recognize that utilizing leftovers in a thoughtful way (not simply zapping them in the microwave) is not a new concept. In fact, this is my sixth article in a regular first-day-of-the-month series on using leftovers in a thoughtful, frugal, and tasty way. The first installment focused on leftover mashed potatoes, the next month on meatloaf, stale bread, and then too many zucchinis. Last month the topic was leftover barbecue.
An important fact to know about me: I don't just like pasta—I love pasta. Perfectly-cooked spaghetti with marinara sauce or a meaty bolognese is heavenly, but let's be honest; the leftovers are boring and rather uninspiring. Let's re-purpose that leftover spaghetti and give it a reason to live.
Start With the Perfect Spaghetti
Before we create the perfect use of spaghetti leftovers, don't we need to have the perfect spaghetti? Just in case you don't (or wonder if there is something better than the recipe you have in your file), here is my version.
Ingredients for Sauce
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
- 36 oz. (4 ½ cups) chicken broth
- ½ cup sliced black olives
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
- 2 whole bay leaves
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Heat a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth to the tomato paste and stir until well blended.
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
- Remove the bay leaves before serving.
A Few Simple Rules to Remember:
- Use a large pot and lots of water.
- Start with cold water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat by covering the pot with the lid.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta.
- Do not add the salt until the water has come to a boil (salted water takes longer to come to a full rolling boil).
- Never ever add oil to the water.
- Spaghetti should be cooked just before serving—make the sauce wait for the pasta; never make the pasta wait for the completion of the sauce.
- Add the pasta all at once and keep the heat high so that the water will return to a boil as quickly as possible.
- Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
- Do NOT cover the pot.
- Start timing your pasta once the water has returned to a boil. Spaghetti usually cooks in 8 to 12 minutes.
- Begin testing your pasta after it has boiled for 5 minutes. Remove a small piece and taste it—it should be tender but still firm. The Italian phrase for this is al dente (ahl-DEN-tay) which means "to the tooth." Your pasta should have a slight resistance (feel chewy) when you bite into it. I call this "Goldilocks" pasta—not too soft, not too hard (in the center), but just right.
- Before draining your spaghetti, remove and set aside about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Drain, but do not rinse the pasta.
- Toss the pasta with about 1 cup of sauce. If it seems too "thick," stir in some of the reserved pasta water.
Leftover Spaghetti Recipes
Now that you've gotten the recipe for the perfect spaghetti, let's explore some delicious ways to repurpose yesterday's pasta.
- Leftover Pasta Fritters
- Leftover Spaghetti Frittata
- Spaghetti Pie
- Spaghetti Braid
- Pour Man's Minestrone Soup
Leftover Pasta Fritters
Nagi is one of my favorite food bloggers. I know I can always rely on her to have something creative and new, and she certainly didn't disappoint with this recipe for fritters made with leftover pasta mixed with sauce. She used leftover spaghetti with red sauce, but the beauty of this recipe is that you can use any leftover pasta—any shape, any sauce.
Now, isn't that thrifty?
Leftover Spaghetti Frittata
What if you have excess pasta but no extra sauce? Make a frittata. Frugal Italian cooks have been doing this for generations (perhaps centuries). Combine pasta and eggs, toss in whatever else might be lingering in the icebox (we're talking old-school here), bake, and voila—you have a savory, tasty meal for your family, and you've rescued leftover bits of this and that from being wasted.
Here's an idea that is actually a mash-up of the first two recipes. Leftover pasta is used to shape a "pie crust" and then is filled with meat and sauce, covered with cheese, and baked to make an easy one-dish meal for your hungry family.
The manufacturers of Rhodes frozen bread dough developed this recipee. At first glance, you might think that spaghetti wrapped in bread is too carby, just over-the-top. But I've rationalized it in this way; it's the same as eating spaghetti with garlic bread, just a different shape. Enjoy.
Pour Man's Minestrone Soup
(Adapted from GoodCheapEats.com.)
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced
- 4 cups cooked spaghetti with sauce
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- In a large stockpot combine the water, potato, carrot, beans, and sausages. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in spaghetti and cook another 5 minutes until the soup is hot. Adjust seasonings to taste, using salt and pepper.
What If You Have Just Sauce Left Over?
Don't toss out the leftover sauce, even if there are only a few spoonfuls. Portion it into an ice cube tray. Once frozen, the spaghetti sauce cubes can be stored in a zip-lock bag. Plop one or more into a pot of soup or stew for a burst of flavor.
Or, if you save enough of them, you just might find that you have enough to reheat and serve anew with pasta. Here we are again. The circle of life.
© 2018 Linda Lum