I’ve written a great deal about the ability of a simple fried egg to transform just about any food, especially warmed leftovers — oven-roasted peppers or sweet onions, mashed or hashed potatoes, ratatouille, polenta, warmed over risotto, fried bread, asparagus, spinach, potato chips, to name a few — and raw greens, from dandelion to spinach, into a meal. But what if the fridge, is literally, almost bare? My strategy is based on my “bottom-line pantry” i.e. foods that I almost always have on hand because they keep indefinitely: pasta, eggs, and Parmigiano-Reggiano (alias Parmesan) cheese. Pasta with a Fried Egg and Parmigiano is one of the BEST emergency dishes I know: sustaining both physically and emotionally. The recipe, scalable indefinitely, is here:
Pasta with a Fried Egg and Parmigiano
To gild the lily, cook some diced bacon or pancetta, fry the eggs in the fat and toss the crispy pieces with the pasta. This recipe is easily scaled down to serve 1 or 2.
12 to 16 ounces (depending how hungry you are) of spaghetti, linguine or other
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
4 extra large eggs, preferably organic
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano
In a large pot of boiling, well-salted water, cook the spaghetti until it is slightly underdone (the pasta will keep cooking after its drained). With a measuring cup, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set the colander over a bowl while you start the eggs.
Carefully break the eggs into a bowl without breaking the yolks. Heat a 12-inch nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Add the butter or oil and swirl to coat. Add the eggs, gently nudging the yolks so they are evenly spaced in the pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.
While the eggs are cooking, transfer the pasta to the cooking pot. Add about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano. Toss until the cheese has melted and the pasta is coated with a creamy sauce, adding more cooking water if necessary to keep the pasta moist. Season with salt and pepper generously. Divide the pasta evenly among 4 warm dinner plates. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining grated cheese.
Separate the eggs with a spatula and arrange a fried egg in the center of each mound of pasta. Scatter coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley over the top, if desired. Serve at once, instructing your guests to break the yolk and toss the egg with the pasta.