I put chicken nuggets on spaghetti because, yes, I am a monster. Recently I was thinking about spaghetti pangrattato, a simple preparation that involves lemon, Parmesan, garlicky bread crumbs, and maybe a fried egg, which all send pasta over the moon. I could’ve just stopped there, but do you know what would really send that pasta over the moon and beyond the known universe? Using the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and garlic to form a crust around chicken, which we will fry and stick on top. I’m not sure what lies beyond the expanse of space, but if it isn’t this nugget-topped spaghetti, then it’s probably a whole lot of meaningless nothing, so I chose to believe in this spaghetti.
To bread the chicken, in a mixing bowl, combine the panko, 1 ounce of the Parmesan, the oregano, garlic powder, coriander, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and cornstarch and whisk thoroughly. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the salt, add it to the bowl with the egg mixture, and toss, coating it well. Pull out a small handful of the chicken and drain any excess dredging liquid. Toss the drained chicken in the panko mixture, breading it well. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remainder.
Bring a stockpot of water to a boil over high heat to cook the pasta.
In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the vegetable oil to 350°F (175°C). Fry the chicken in four batches, 3 to 5 minutes each, until it’s not at all pink on the inside and has a golden-brown crust. Carefully remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and drain it on a paper towel–lined plate.
In a large sauté pan with high sides, add the olive oil and garlic and cook over medium heat until the garlic is very brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock, lemon zest, butter, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer.
Cook the spaghetti in the pot of boiling water for two-thirds of the instructed time. Drain it, reserving 2 cups (475ml) of the pasta cooking liquid, and add the pasta to the sauté pan. Increase the heat to high and boil until the pasta is fully cooked. You want about a cup of liquid in the pan; if you need more, add the reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the lemon juice and remaining 1⁄2 ounce Parmesan and mix well. To serve, top each serving of spaghetti with a handful of chicken nuggets, some basil leaves, more Parmesan, and maybe some red pepper flakes!