Inspired by the crispy satisfaction of oven French fries but not wanting to cut potatoes, I tried using undressed, leftover tube pasta to make something like the crisp-chewy noodles on the top of baked pasta casseroles, like mac-and-cheese and my Big Macaroni. A dusting of grated Parmigiano caramelizes on the pasta as it roasts, creating that satisfying texture and flavor. Although you can use almost any pasta, tube pastas such as trenne, penne, ziti or strozzapretti, or long, twisted pastas are the most fun to eat with your fingers. Penne is definitely the most fry-like.
They make a wonderful lone-dog supper, midnight snack, side dish or hors d’oeuvre. Here’s the private stash I gobbled last night for dinner, made from a 4 ounces if penne.
Recipe: Pasta Fries
This recipe is really a rough model of making any amount of pasta fries you like. You can scale it up or down. The key is having the pasta lay pretty much in one layer on the pan so the bottoms brown.
Serves 2 to 4
12 ounces tube pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 peeled, roughly-crushed-but-intact garlic clove (optional)
Salt and pepper
2/3 to 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
Salt a large pot of boiling water, add the pasta and cook 12 ounces tube pasta until al dente (tender but still slightly firm to the bite). Pour into a colander to drain several minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the garlic clove if desired; swirl several times to infuse, then remove; turn off the heat. Grease a large, heavy baking sheet or two large ovenproof cast-iron or nonstick skillets with a little of the butter.
If the pasta is wettish, blot dry with paper towels or spin in a salad spinner. Pour the pasta onto the baking sheet. Pour the butter over and toss to coat completely; add salt and pepper to taste. Shake the pan to let the pasta spread out and settle. Sprinkle with grated cheese.
Bake the pasta in a hot 475’ oven until the top is golden and chewy/crisp, 25 minutes. (Toward the end of the cooking time, taste a “fry” to test for the crisp-chewy texture. If they cook too long, they may get too crunchy). Serve at once, sprinkling with additional salt if necessary.