When I worked at the CIA (meaning The Culinary Institute of America—though if not prompted, I will let strangers assume otherwise), I lived in a pretty average apartment. Okay, it was huge by my now New York City standards, but up in the gorgeous Hudson Valley, it was pretty average, maybe even cramped. I loved (and I mean LOVED) hosting dinner parties in this apartment, and it was a very regular occurrence. Often, it was just a handful of local friends, sometimes it was quite a crowd. Sometimes, there was a theme, but more often, the only theme was “delicious things to eat and drink.”
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As the evening waned (and after more than a few glasses of bubbly), I would apologize to my guests for not having a microwave to make use of the plentiful leftover selection. A microwave was mostly unnecessary to my life, except for one thing that really is best reheated in the microwave: pasta. I thank this hurdle for yielding something that I now am totally, beyond obsessed with: pasta pies. I used to make these beauties with leftover pasta (and that’s great), but I love them so much that now I make them fresh from beginning to end. (And later, I reheat the leftovers in my microwave.)
So what’s great about pasta pies?
The texture: it’s unbelievably crispy on the top, bottom, and sides (but wonderfully soft and juicy in the middle). It’s like the top layer of the lasagna, but amplified.
It’s so adaptable. Turn any of your favorite pasta combinations into a pie, whether from leftover form or from scratch.
You can make it ahead. Form the pasta pie and hold it in the fridge (or for a shorter time at room temp), then finish in the oven when guests arrive. You can present the whole pie to diners and they can slice however big of a piece they want.
The leftovers are really good. Even if you made it from leftovers, the leftovers are good. And as someone who hates eating the same thing over and over all week, that’s a major plus.
A few things to keep in mind when making your pasta pie:
Undercook the pasta. Remember that the oven will continue to cook the pasta, so just like with ziti or lasagna, undercook your noodles by a few minutes—enough that they are flexible, but still have bite.
Make it saucy (…er). A similar note: The oven will dehydrate things a bit, so a little extra sauce (or a slightly thinner sauce than usual) doesn’t hurt.
Remember that inclusions can affect the way things slice—so make things bite size or in a similar shape/size to the pasta.
Let pasta shape determine pie shape. Long pasta, like spaghetti or bucatini, can be wound into rounds like a spiral, while shorter pastas can be arranged facing top to bottom. Both look pretty awesome, both whole and when sliced!
Next, a few flavor ideas:
Because you can never go wrong with Marcella’s anything: a simple pasta pie with Marcella’s tomato sauce is maybe my favorite pasta pie of all. Throw in fresh mozzarella and top with plenty of basil and everyone will swoon. Consequently, this is my actual favorite, so recipe, including shaping, is below.
1 1/2 pounds bucatini or other long pasta 1 recipe Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated (as best you can, larger chunks are okay) 6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
How do you use up your pasta leftovers? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by James Ransom
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
I always carry three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's pie. My first cookbook, The Fearless Baker, is out on October 24, 2017.