I accidentally took all of these pictures with my camera set on “foliage.” Sorry.
Tonight’s dinner is a total throwback to my childhood, and has not been modified in any way from the way my mom used to make it. It’s an odd dish, I don’t really know its origins and I don’t really expect anyone to believe that it’s good, but it’s cheap, easy, tasty and makes fantastic leftovers.
May I present to you: spaghetti pie. Yes, spaghetti pie, that’s what I said. Spaghetti + Pie. Spaghetti pie.
I also didn’t cook this in my own kitchen. Double-plus good times!
There’s not really much to say about spaghetti pie. It’s spaghetti and eggs seasoned simply with salt, pepper and grated pecorino and fried up in a skillet until the eggs set, the outside crusts up and it resembles a pie. Sounds appetizing, does it not?
Well you can just shut it, because it’s damn good. It’s kind of like a Spanish tortilla – which is like a giant frittata filled with olive-oil fried potatoes – but with spaghetti replacing the tubers. As I said, I don’t know where it comes from; I’m not sure if it’s some kind of traditional Southern Italian thing (like a “we’re poor and have no meat so let’s throw some eggs into the pasta” deal) or something my mom invented as a means of making pasta more beach-friendly.* The fact that she actually called it “spaghetti pie” and not some Italian name makes me favor the “she made it up” hypothesis, but I really don’t know. If anyone has any insight into its origins, it’d be much appreciated.
I do know that it makes an excellent cold lunch, especially when eaten poolside at the Birch Hill Swim club by my 9-year-old self.
*My family is always looking for more ways to take pasta to the beach. My mom came up with this beach-friendly version, but the rest of the family – still all living in southern Italy – does not pull any punches. The last time we visited them our stay happened during the national holiday of Ferragosto, when everyone heads to the beach for the whole day. We brought a full-course picnic: antipasto, primo, secondo, contorni, wine, coffee, dessert. It included, but was not limited to, lasagna Bolognese and fried veal cutlets. I LOVE ITALIANS.
Sigh…stuck with the foliage setting, and no photoshop. What’s a girl to do?
In my poor vegetarian law student days, I resurrected spaghetti pie as a dinner staple. This was a more upscale spaghetti pie, or as upscale as something called “spaghetti pie” can be. I’d mix sauteed veg into the pasta and egg – spinach, shroom and onion being my favorite – and eat the pie warm with some simple marinara over the top. As my vegetarian days faded into hazy memory, hot Italian sausage crept its way in.
For this version, I kept it simple and cheap – just the basics, with some fresh tomato. I laid the tomato in some olive oil in the bottom of the skillet that would become the vehicle for my pie.
After the tomatoes sizzled for a few minutes, I covered them with a one and a half-inch thick layer of cooked spaghetti and poured over eggs beaten quickly with the salt, pepper and cheese.
In this particular case I used 14 eggs, which surprised me a little and probably puts me over the $5 limit for a cheap ass meal. But let it be known that this pie was made in a 14-inch skillet, and that half the finished pie served 8 for dinner; the other half will be this week’s lunch (much as I enjoy spaghetti pie for dinner, it’s always better cold the next day, and the real reason for making it is for that purpose). So I’m confident that a two-or four-person pie would come in well under the salary cap.
Spaghetti pie takes its sweet time to set up enough to flip, especially a 14-inch behemoth pie. The egg needs to firm up enough so you can flip the beast without splattering everything in a 5-foot radius was raw egg, and the outer crust needs to brown and crisp.
We come from the planet foliage. Take us to your leader.
While ignoring the gigundous vat of egg and spaghetti, I hacked up some zucchini to throw on the grill for a side dish. (Possibly the grill was already on because we had some leftover pizza dough and threw together some quickie pies with the leftover pesto. You know, for an amuse bouche. Not because we have a problem. WE DO NOT HAVE A PROBLEM.)
I had some enormous pattypan squash from my CSA, so I used those. Prior to my close encounter with these, I’d only ever seen the wee pattypan, the adorable little one inch diameter jobbies that you can pop into your mouth in one go. These were enormous mutant pattypans, six inches across and heavy as hell. Three served eight people, no problem. A little olive oil, a little salt, some charry grill marks, and squash is served.
Squash is a quick study on the grill, so when Brian came in with the cooked squash I pressed him into service to assist with the logistics and materials of flipping a burning hot, oil-spitting, heavy, 14-inch diameter spaghetti pie. Which we were able to do with a large cutting board and a minimum of hot oil burns. Success! The egg only needed a few minutes to finish cooking through; another few minutes for the side two spaghetti to crisp up, and it’s time for pie. PIE!
At least the planet foliage has some nice natural light.
I slid the finished pie back onto the cutting board and left it to cool for a few minutes before cutting. The pie was actually hanging off the edge of the board, and it was at this point that I remembered that I usually make spaghetti pie in an 8-inch skillet. Which explains why I normally don’t zip through a dozen-plus eggs to make this very simple dish and don’t usually need a complicated system of pulleys and levers to flip it.
I also heated a small pot of leftover vodka sauce from our pizza odyssey to serve alongside.
Let me tell you, a slice from a 14-inch diameter pie is VERY VERY BIG.
I picked the most photogenic pieces of squash from the tray, maneuvered a very long piece of spaghetti pie onto my plate and spooned a bit of vodka sauce over the top.
Aside from being good, spaghetti pie is nothing if not an unchanging reminder of my childhood. Crispy, olive oily spaghetti crust, eggy starchy interior, a little peppery, a little salty from the pecorino. It’s no meatloaf and mashed potatoes, but it’s comfort food to me. You can change it up in a thousand ways with different meats, veggies and cheeses, but nothing is going to beat the straight-up piece I’m going to have for lunch tomorrow straight from the office fridge.
Simple Spaghetti Pie
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 package spaghetti, cooked and drained
large pinch salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, or more to taste
1/2 c. grated pecorino cheese
In an 8-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, salt, pepper and pecorino to combine. Dump in the cooked spaghetti and mix thoroughly.
Pour the spaghetti mixture into the hot pan. Cook until the eggs are pretty well set – only the very top will still be runny – and the spaghetti is golden brown and crusty, about 10 minutes.
Run a heatproof spatula around the pie to make sure it will release from the pan. Slide the pie onto a large platter; invert the pan over the pie and flip so the pie goes in uncooked-side down.
Cook for another 5 minutes, until the eggs are cooked all the way through and the crust is crisp all the way around. Slide the finished pie back onto the platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot with tomato sauce if desired, but best eaten at room temperature.