http://carbonadoes.com/2012/09/22/neapolitan-vermicelli/

We had vermicelli again. Yes, we have pasta that rarely.

This time, I did it on purpose, not with leftovers.

The pasta was Strascinati, a thick curl of dough somewhat related to orrechietti. I also had the choice of  rocetti, which were suggested by my pasta monger, and will use those soon for something.

vermicelli-6

The cheese was a gorgeous Parmesan Dolce, a short-cured cheese, about the density of Jarlsberg, albeit without holes. It is mild and sweet in flavor.

We had some beautiful chicken broth with a thick fat layer on it in the fridge. I put a kilo of the dry pasta into a quart of broth supplemented with about a cup of water, in which a large pinch of saffron had bloomed.

This simmered on the stove for about 10 minutes to allow me to stir the pasta so it would not stick, then I put it in the oven at 200* for an hour.

When I pulled it out, it had cooked too long, and become a casserole. The pasta had begun to break down, all of the liquid was absorbed.

vermicelli-10

I grated about 2 oz of the cheese into each bowl and served 6 oz of the pasta on top of the cheese, the heat from the pasta melted it nicely, allowing it to get folded in.

I used a little cinnamon, some cumin, salt, pepper, and sugar as the spices. Ginger would go well, if you enjoy it.

The leftover pasta was packed without cheese.

To reheat, we added a good amount of grated cheese, folded them together, and baked as a casserole in a pan. It came out of the pan crusty and warm, very comforting on the first wintry night of the year.

Piglia tre pani he levali la crosta he gratali molto bene he metteli supra una tavola, he metteli atorno una libra he meza de bona farina; he mete cum lo dito pane quatro ho cingue oca he batile bene cum lo cultello risguardando sempre lo pane cum la dita farina; he quando te parirache sia minuto como (f* 8r) anesi confetti, pone ogni cosa in uno sedazo he cacia fora la farina; poi falli secare alo sole ho alo focho; et quando li vorai cocere, coceli in brodo de carne, he fallo ghialdo cum saffrono; he falle bullire adasio per spacio de meza hora; et mette de sopra le menestre caso he specie.

Take the crusts of three loaves of bread. grate them, set this on a table and lay out a pound of and a half of fine flour around it; and put five eggs in with the ground bread and beat that well with a knife, always being careful (to coat) the breadcrumbs well with the flour; and when you have lumps that look to you to be the size of candies aniseed, put everything into a sieve and discard the (excess) flour; then dry them in the sun or by the fire. When you want to cook them, use meat broth made yellow with saffron; boil them gently for half an hour, serve them up garnished with cheese and spices.

 

The book commentary says “think ditallini.” I disagree. I think “couscous.”

This is about the easiest recipe I have made to date, but it relies on a couple of factors.  Use of a food processor is extremely helpful for ease of production.

I saved the crusts from several loaves, and staled them in a low oven while it was cooling from making some other dishes.  I crushed them and processed them, then ran them through a coarse strainer to make sure they were of a size.

 

bread crusts stacked and placed on baking sheets to dry

making breadcrumbs

The first time I made this, I worked from the proportions in the book. Knowing I had 5 eggs of indeterminate size and a pound and a half (not modern pounds! only 12 oz lb, so 18 oz in modern parlance) of flour, I started with a half pound of bread crumbs. There was a lot of tweaking, as I made this dish on dry days and more humid days, and each time the proportions changed.   Be prepared to add more eggs or flour, but do not add more breadcrumbs, as the addition will become gummy and harder to recover.

After several batches, the following numbers are pretty reliable in a medium processor, and result in both a quantity that comfortably fits an oven and that feeds 4 people an ample portion.

.

1 c (150g) home made breadcrumbs (I do not suggest commercial, they have quite an ingredient list)

3 eggs, about 150g  to coat, a fourth in reserve for in case.

1/2 c (100g) farina, fine semolina, or other very fine low gluten flour, as needed.

To serve the dish, I needed

about a half gallon of nice broth, or a quart of stock. This is most of the flavor in the dish, so if it tastes good the dish will as well.

Saffron if you like it (I like it!)

4 oz ricotta, farmers cheese, queso fresco, or other creamy new cheese

1 tablespoon Spices as you prefer. I chose black pepper, canela, and clove.

 

Place the breadcrumbs in the processor, and add the eggs. Whir until you have  a homogeneous paste. It should look gritty, like concrete, rather than soupy.

Add flour until the mass separates into tiny pellets. If they seem too small or incompletely coated, add more egg then more flour until you feel you have a pleasantsize and presentation of pasta. Remember that too large a pellet will be difficult to dry, and uneven in an elegant serving.

Spread out evenly on baking sheets and place in the bright dry sun, or alternately, place in a low oven for several hours, There will be quite a bit of shrinkage. I choose to turn the pasta several times, to avoid clumping and aid drying.

coarse pellets laid out on two pans to dry in the oven

thin layers dry faster

You can now store the pasta in a cool dry container, such as a mason jar in the fridge. or a zip bag in the freezer.

 

In order to prepare the dish for service, put about a half cup of broth per person into a pot, and add the optional saffron.

When the broth is warm, add a quarter cup of pasta per person to the pot, and watch carefully, Add more broth as needed, as the pasta absorbs. I prefer the dish dry, but you may prefer it with more liquid. I prefer not to stir overmuch, just enough to prevent clumping.  I find it works much better to add pasta to broth, rather than the other way.

hot broth in a pot, the pasta is being poured in slowly while stirring to prevent clumping

gently adding the pasta do the broth

If there is too much broth, you might allow it to simmer down, but if there is not enough broth and you are running low, water will not ruin the dish.

To serve, place in a warmed bowl, top with a dollop of milky cheese, and sprinkle with spices. Alternately, this would be a lovely bed for a roast or braised dish.

There is a fair amount of room to adapt this dish, whether by using an herb or vegetable broth, or making it more brothy or more fluffy by changing the broth proportions. The only things that cannot be adjusted are that it is unabashedly an egg and wheat dish.

Scully, Terence. The Neapolitan Recipe Collection. 4th ed. University of Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2000. 178. Print.

 

The Neapolitan Cookbook has several pasta dishes. 15, 16 and 17 are all related.

In the interest of using some leftover tubettini from the prior night, I used aspects of them for my quick lunch dish.

a brown bowl filled with small beads of pasta, and topped with grated white cheese.

quick, tasty, and light

15, Sicilian Macaroni, explains how to make tubettini. It is an egg dough made with rosewater, and “can be kept for two or three years,” while mine were semolina made with plain water. This set of instructions calls for cooking in water or good broth, then a garnish of grated cheese, a pat of butter, and mild spices.

16 describes something a little more like ziti, reminds us to use salt in the cooking, and asks for no more than butter.

Finally, 17, Vermicelli, specifies grated Parmesan cheese, mild spices, and saffron, and tells us that we can make lasagna the same way.

Interesting notes among them are the very long cooking times, their call for butter, and their use of “the very finest” flour, where we modernly think of pasta as more of a semolina flour product.

This causes me to consider my experiences with soft wheats and their differing reactions, and make plans to experiment with making pasta from different types of wheat at some point in the future.

 

Having my pasta already cooked in plain water, I assembled my ingredients and measured out my portion.

First I melted butter in a pan, in order both to butter and refresh the pasta.

After the pasta was warmed through, I poured my saffron water into the pan, which instantly transformed the color of the dish to amber.

I then sprinkled my spices on top, and sauteed for a moment more, in order to soften them and allow them to work their flavors in to the dish. This isn’t specified, , but it made sense.

A layer of pasta in a sautee pan with a dusting of spice powder overtop.

saffron and spices at work.

After plating the dish, I grated an ounce of asiago cheese on top.

Our discussion over lunch had to do with the saffron rounding out the flavor of the cloves, which could have been too sharp and bracing for a gentle dish, and the cheese’s sharpness being tempered by the saffron as well.

While we very rarely have pasta in the house, and it is more rare to have any left over, this was a fun, quick, and tasty use of of it when we did.

Recipe: Neapolitan Pastas, 15, 16, 17

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked tubettini or similar
  • 1 ounce water with saffron (maybe 5 threads)
  • ½ tsp poudre douce (see note)
  • ½ ounce butter
  • 1 ounce grated cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat butter in pan
  2. Add precooked pasta, toss til warm.
  3. Add saffron and water, toss til reasonably evenly colored.
  4. Add spices, toss til scented and evenly distributed
  5. Place pasta in bowl, grate cheese overtop.
  6. Serve.
  7. Note lack of salt. I cook my pasta in liberally salted water, and do not choose to add more. You can certainly add it if you would miss it.

 

Ratings;

  • using store stuff is not exactly there
  • the saffron matters.
  • Balancing the spices is a perfectionists’ task+ only one of the listed recipes requires parmesan, it’s otherwise flexible+ a simple toss-together and heat dish+ leftover special

Note:

the recipe for my powdre douce is available on the button to the top right, “my basic notes and recipes.”