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I sat there for a few minutes thinking: which recipe symbolizes summer for me? Without doubt it has to be la pasta fritta! Two layers of crunchy spaghetti enclosing slices of hard boiled eggs and juicy aubergines, fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves: a symphony of textures and flavours!
June, early 1970’s, schools are closed, the summer holidays are here … finally! Endless days spent playing by the sea or in the garden with my brothers. After a few weeks it’s time to go to Italy for our annual visit to my parents’ families. We fly from Benghazi, Libya to Fiumicino, hire a car and drive up to our holiday house in Montorio Romano, near Roma.
There, zia Maria and zia Pupina, my father’s sisters, are waiting for us with loads of delicacies that we can’t get hold of in Libya: cherries and strawberries for my brothers, profiteroles for my father, a bunch of tender celery for my mother, crunchy tasty carrots for me. But the most exciting part is lunch, which invariably consists of our beloved pasta fritta!
As far as I know this dish is originally from Sicily, because zia Maria was married to a fighter pilot from Marsala, and she had learned to cook all of his favourite Sicilian dishes. It takes a bit of of time to prepare but it’s not difficult, and definitely worth the effort.
Here’s how to make zia Maria’s Pasta Fritta for 2 people:
150 grams of spaghetti; 1 cup of tomato sauce; 1 aubergine; 1 egg; 1 small bunch of basil; 4 tablespoons of dry breadcrumbs; oil for frying; salt and pepper.
Boil the egg for 8 minutes, let it cool down in cold water, shell and slice it.
Thinly slice the aubergine, then fry it, and leave to drain on some kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook the spaghetti al dente, drain it and run it under the cold water to stop the cooking process. Then put the spaghetti in a mixing bowl and dress it with the tomato sauce.
Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan, sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan and put in half of the spaghetti. Make sure the spaghetti is distributed evenly.
Spread the fried aubergine, hard-boiled egg slices, and the basil leaves onto the spaghetti. Cover with the rest of the spaghetti, and press down with a spatula.
When the bottom is nice and crusty, turn the spaghetti ‘frittata‘ onto a big dish so that you can slide it back into the pan and cook the other side. Pour a little more oil into the frying pan, then sprinkle in the remaining breadcrumbs. Slide the spaghetti mixture on top of the breadcrumbs and leave your pasta fritta to form a nice golden crust.
Tastes great either hot or cold.