My first thought after eating a mound of stir fried leftover linguine was, “I need to do this more often.” Rice noodles, in any manner of preparation – soaked, fried, or tossed in soup – make up a large portion of my diet, but when I cook boxed semolina or durum wheat pasta, I tend to think of it as boiled or bust. This is folly. Pan frying Italian pasta opens up a brand new world of flavors and textures. Grab yourself a box of spaghetti, and let’s make a bangin’ stir fry.
Although you can stir fry freshly boiled pasta, I like to use leftovers. I always seem to boil too much pasta for any given dish, so leftovers are inevitable. Cooked pasta also dries out in the fridge, even when covered, so getting a lovely crisp in a pan of butter happens much faster. The appeal of frying your pasta is in the unique texture that develops. The wheat pasta absorbs water when you boil it, and as you fry it, the parts that are in contact with the pan lose their water to evaporation, and they crisp. The texture isn’t hard, like uncooked pasta, but aerated from the water gained and lost. It almost gives a crisped rice vibe. Of course, you’re only doing a quick fry, so the other parts of the pasta remain soft and chewy, and this contrast of textures is quite fun to eat.
When starting with dried pasta from the box, boil your desired quantity of noodles as you normally would. Drain out the pasta over the sink (or save your valuable pasta water), and allow the pasta to dry out for five to ten minutes. Whether you’re working with fridge-cold leftover pasta, or the freshly boiled and drained stuff, you’ll start by melting enough butter to coat the bottom of a frying pan. Once the butter is completely melted and bubbling, add the pasta. Leave the noodles in the pan over medium heat, and let the butter do its business. I had leftover some ditalini in my fridge, which initially seemed like a silly pasta to fry since it’s a silly little shape to begin with, but those petite rounds sat very well in my pan of butter.
After about three to five minutes you can give the pan a shake and see how the browning is coming along. When you see a bit of color, add any veggies, sauces, or seasonings you’d like to toss in. I rounded out my fried ditalini dance with some cherry tomatoes, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, and a fried egg (because pasta is breakfast).
Photo by Mae Mu
You can effectively fry your Italian pasta leftovers in oil if you’d like, but I find the flavor and color of browned butter hard to resist. Feeling left out because your leftovers have sauce on them already? This whole method can be replicated with dressed pasta too, though it works best with lightly sauced pasta. Add it to a pan of hot fat and the sauce will cook into the noodle and caramelize on the exposed edges. Too much sauce and you’ll just end up with a reheated version of dinner. Frankly, that would also taste great with an egg on it.
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