Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gilding the lily – pasta with bread crumbs

We walked to Barnes and Noble this evening, delighting in the long sunset brightening the sky. There are unnerving new open spaces even since our visit a couple of weeks ago – bookstores are meant to be lined with books, not minimalist in their displays of them. On many of the remaining shelves, bright-colored puzzles and board games replaced the books, not offering knowledge or new worlds but entertainment. I felt it critical to buy something papered and wordy as a small statement of my view of the real worth of bookstores, so picked up a “Lonely Planet” travel magazine and the October 2011 issue of “La Cucina Italiana.”

“La Cucina Italiana” features pasta this month, with many of the recipes relying on the eternal marriage of pasta and tomatoes using different shapes and methods of preparation:

tagliolini all’uovo con passata fresca casalinga (fresh egg tagliolini with homemade tomato sauce)
elich con salsa di san marzano e ortaggi aromatici (pasta with fresh plum tomato sauce)
spaghetti con pomodori al forno (spaghetti with oven roasted tomatoes)
mezzi paccheri con pomodorini ciliegia all marinara (mezzi paccheri with cherry tomoato marinara sauce)
tortiglioni con salsa di pelati (tortiglioni with tomato sauce)
linguine con polpa fresca in dadolata (lingune with fresh chopped tomatoes)
linguine con san marzano e erbe (linguine with plum tomatoes and herbs)

 The pappa al pomodoro, Tuscan tomato and bread soup, sounded very much like the linguine con polpa fresca in dadolata and the linguine con san marzano e erbe except that it used bread instead of pasta. 

      But my favorite was spaghettoni con mollica e pomodoro – spaghetti with breadcrumbs and tomatoes – that managed to gild the lily by topping pasta and tomato sauce with bread crumbs roasted in olive oil. Besides the La Cucina Italiana recipe (in the magazine, but not on the website), dozens of recipes for pasta featuring breadcrumbs with other ingredients are available on the Internet, including  with sardines, from the New York Times (, or from the Food Network (; with mixed chopped olives (; or with fried peppers and anchovies and tomatoes ( That last is the one I will try next time I get a chance to cook. The idea of toasted bread crumbs on top of pasta is irresistible and the fried peppers must be the perfect finish.

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