Jan 7, 2017

Avanzi, Italy's glorious leftovers

You know me. I'm the one fixated with not throwing away food. I so firmly believe in recycling leftovers that I purposely cook in larger quantities than needed in order to have uneaten food to work with later.

After a sad few days of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple, toast)––my son and I caught the stomach bug of 2016 late––I needed something to revive my depressed taste buds.

So for dinner yesterday I "made" two sensational Southern Italian dishes with avanzi. Made is actually too bold of a term, let's say I transformed leftover spaghetti into Neapolitan frittata di maccheroni and day-old green beans into Sicilian fagiolini alla muddica.

A week ago I made enough Puttanesca for 10 (there were 7 guests, 3 of which kids) so naturally I had a bowl of it sitting in the back of the fridge. The sauce made with this summer's pommarola, brined olives and minuscule capers from Pantelleria stuck to the noodles and was still fragrant. I didn't have to think twice: frittata di maccheroni. Every Neapolitan homemaker has this recipe in their repertoire.

I loosened the spaghetti from their bowl-shape and mixed in 4 beaten eggs.
I transferred the slippery mix to a heavy-bottomed pan with just a drizzle of olive oil and gently heated for about 5 minutes, until a delicious crust started forming on the bottom. My mother's trick is beating one more egg with salt and pepper and pouring it on the surface. This helps set the frittata.
I covered the pan for another 2 minutes, checking that the bottom didn't darken too much: browned frittata is dry and disgusting.
At this point of cooking frittata you have to be resourceful for the flipping portion of the recipe.
I use a lipless lid and good balancing skills to slide the uncooked side back into the pan.
On the whole, another plus is that this dish takes about 10-12 minutes to make. So while wisely thrifty, you're also budgeting time.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

But my recycled carbs with high-protein needed a vegetal side. I glanced at the handful of yesterday's steamed green beans sitting suffocated under a plastic wrap cover. I reached in for the bowl and let the contents warm to room temperature on the countertop while I made the seasoned breadcrumbs.

I have a small fabric pouch where all my bread corners, broken breadsticks and uneaten slices fall into. This is what's known around the house as the Pangrattato Pouch. All the hardened bits of sourdough in there become breadcrumbs. I transfer the amount needed in a sturdy airtight plastic bag and arm myself with a rolling pin. I seal the bag and bash the hunks of bread to the desired powder grain. I prefer coarse. To the ziploc I then add powdered herbs, seasoned salt and a fistful of polenta (cornmeal) for crunch.

Cooking with leftovers — www.aglioolioepeperoncino.com

I toasted the breadcrumbs with olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. A salt-saving, flavor-boosting trick is adding 2-3 oil-packed anchovies and working them into the crumbs with the tines of a fork. When the breadcrumbs clumped together to a crispy crumble, I added the green beans, tossing to coat and heat through. I didn't need to adjust seasoning, so I served immediately.

A tavola!


  1. Unmistakably Italian in every possible way. I just love the last minute egg tip from your mom; I had just posted a recipe for Spaghetti Frittata, but including the lightly beaten egg sounds perfect.

  2. The frittata is a stand-by in our house but the green beans are new to me—and sound delicious!

    1. Yes, frittata is a pillar that holds meals and households together.
      The fagiolini you'll love: a great way to restore dignity back to any limp, day-old vegetable, really.