I'll admit I was skeptical of this idea we found in Ideas in Food by Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa. Roasting concentrates flavor— roasted vegetables, I can get behind. Roasted fruit and citrus, too. But pasta is pretty perfect in my mind, so why roast it dry to enhance flavor before cooking and saucing it?
And then I tried it. After roasting for about 10 minutes, it emerged from the oven a golden, almost reddish brown. I then rehydrated it in water in the fridge for a couple hours. Then, I cooked it as I normally would. The result was nutty and toasted, at once foreign and familiar. It was an amped-up version of the food I've probably eaten thousands of times. The texture was strange: very al dente, almost a bit rubbery, but this corrected itself once I paired it with a pan sauce. I was sold.
Here's how to roast pasta:
Arrange 1 pound (453 g) dried bucatini or spaghetti on a roasting pan in an even layer two bucatini deep. Toast in a 350° F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until a deep golden brown.
Let cool completely, then place in a plastic bag and add water. Close the bag, pushing out air, and let hydrate in the refrigerator for 2 1/2 hours. Alternatively, you can cook the pasta after it cools—just note it will take longer (more like 15 minutes) than un-roasted pasta, and it will likely not get past the al dente point.
Here's what to do with it (because this is not normal pasta):
Pair with a simple sauce that will let the nutty, toasty pasta flavor shine—even a garlicky Aglio e Olio can overwhelm it. We liked Cacio e Pepe, which Ideas in Food suggests.
A no-cook ricotta, olive oil, and parsley sauce would be excellent, too.
The pasta's al dente texture is perfect for brothy dishes or soups where normal dried pasta can quickly turn mushy. For a take on fideos, a Spanish technique that calls for pan-frying pasta in olive oil to achieve that nuttiness, break the spaghetti into short pieces before roasting.
If you boil your pasta instead of re-hydrating in the fridge, save that pasta water! Like the noodles themselves, the water will have a deeper, nuttier flavor. You can save it to thicken pan sauces, use in other pasta dishes, or add a few ladlefuls when couscous or fregola.
Have you tried roasting pasta? What do you use it for? Tell us in the comments!
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This article originally appeared on March 24, 2016. We're re-running it now because it's such a smart trick, don't you think?