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Spaghetti pancake

A few weeks ago, examining the Italian frittata, I suggested that eggs aren't just for breakfast any more.

For today's sermon, I would like to suggest the liberation of another traditional breakfast specialty as a worthy mealtime player at any time of day: The pancake.

Replacing the usual potato, pasta or rice as the starch of the evening, a good-size pancake spread on a plate can make a tasty if unexpected base for just about any dinner. I've tried a variety from potato pancakes to buckwheat pancakes to cornmeal cakes, usually savory, not sweet, although I wouldn't rule out trying a sweet one for dinner if the combination seemed right.

Today's invention offers an Italian spin on a Southeast Asian specialty, a hearty, crunchy pancake made with cooked spaghetti and a light egg batter. Enjoy it as a side dish, or top it with just about anything you can imagine, from your favorite standard pasta sauce to ... well, you name it.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

4 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano or similar cheese
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic


1. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until just al dente; take care not to overcook, as it will cook a bit more in the pancake. Run cold water over it in the strainer to cool it enough that it won't cook the egg in step 2, and use immediately; if you must put it aside for a few minutes, toss it with a little olive oil so it won't stick together.

2. Break the egg into a small bowl, add the water and whip it lightly with a fork. Pour this into the spaghetti, and add the flour, grated cheese, salt, pepper and dash of cayenne.

3. Whack the clove of garlic with the side of a knife to break it open and release its juices, and heat it in the olive oil over medium-high heat in a sautee pan or skillet (I strongly recommend nonstick) until the oil is hot and the garlic is aromatic and starting to brown. Remove and discard the garlic, and put in the spaghetti and egg mixture in an even layer. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or so, or until the bottom is brown.

4. Take care not to move the pancake at first, until the bottom sets up sufficiently to hold it together. Once you're sure the pancake has reached this point, slide it out gently onto a plate, then wipe the sautee pan, invert it over the plate, and - working carefully to avoid burns - turn the pan and plate over together so the pancake drops into the pan with the uncooked side down. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until it's crisp and browned on both sides.

I turned it into a vegetarian meal by topping it with a combination of steamed broccoli and cauliflower in a light cheese sauce, but as noted, it will serve as a tasty base for just about any topping - a ragu Bolognese or simple Italian meat sauce or marinara sauce would be fine. So would a ration of beef stew or chili. Let your imagination - or your leftovers - be your guide.

WINE MATCH: I would consider the sauce rather than the pancake in choosing the wine. For the vegetable-and-cheese topping mentioned, a recently reviewed Northastern Italian white hit the spot: Peter Zemmer 2001 Vignete delle Dolomiti Pinot Grigio.

Last Week's FoodLetter and Archives

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Prime rib in a skillet (Jan. 16)

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Thursday, Jan. 16, 2003
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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