I went wildflower picking yesterday afternoon, I’ve been seeing huge swathes of bright purple flowers everywhere and an especially large one by the side of the railroad tracks, so I took my basket and a pair of scissors and off I went to “pluck”.
“I love to pluck” My grandmother Bella would say in thickly accented English. Pluck was her word for foraging, we would “Pluck” anywhere and everywhere. In Fire Island we would pluck beach plums and blueberries to be turned into jams and cakes and wildflowers…and sometimes flowers from other peoples gardens and public spaces. Bella was something of a thief, a charming , loving,wonderful thief…but she had a flexible moral compass when it came to the difference between public and private property.
I remember being in the parking lot of the A&P in East Hampton late at night while Bella filled the trunk of the car with Lilacs. It was the only time I remember her driving a car, her desire for those Lilacs was so strong she drove, at night, to get them. This I totally understand, one of the things I look forward once I start driving, to is being able to pull over when I want to…should I see a wild apple tree or a meadow full of wild flowers …without having to ask and then be told its too late.
After filling the house with wildflowers; I set about making one of my favorite dinners Spaghetti with Sand aka pangrattatto. Spaghetti or Bucatini tossed with Crunchy Garlicky, Anchovy-y, Lemon-y Breadcrumbs … its so delicious and so simple! It pleases me to no end to know that Nora Ephron, one of my heroes, also loved and cooked this dish. In fact one of the greatest moments of my cooking life was when I learned that she’d commented on a recipe of mine on Food 52 under a nom de plume.
I first had a version of this dish at Ace of Cups in the East Village and have since worked on a few different versions, all dependant upon what I have in the house. I’ve added Shrimp, Scallops, Crab, Lobster, Asparagus, Ramps, Garlic Scapes, Greens, Nuts, Fresh Herbs.. of course not all at once.
I usually top it with a fried egg rather than mixing in egg yolk which is traditional. Last night I mixed the last of my Savoury Walnut Granola into the Breadcrumbs along with lots of Garlic, Lemon Zest, Anchovies & Some Beet Greens & Kale. The amount of garlic & anchovy is personal… I like it with 3 filets, I like an idea of anchovy, a whisper, a hint and breeze of anchovy rather than actual in your face anchovyness
My Spaghetti Pangrattatto with Greens & Fried Egg
(serves 4) NOTE: You can use Walnut Poppy Seed Pecorino Granola in place of or in addition to Breadcrumbs.
- 1 Pound Thick Spaghetti ( or Bucatini or Perciatelli)
- 1/3 Cup Olive Oil + 2 Tablespoons
- 6 Cloves of Garlic, sliced
- 3-10 Anchovy Fillets- Rinsed if Salt Packed, chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Red pepper Flakes
- 1 Cup Dried Bread Crumbs – Plain -not the “Italian Flavoured” Kind- You can also use Panko
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- 2 Cups packed Tender Greens ( Baby Kale, Mustard Greens, Mizuna and/or Beet Greens) washed not dried
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Parsley & Mint
- 1/3 cup Pecorino Cheese + Additional to Taste
- 4 Eggs
- Salt & Pepper
- Heat 1/3 Cup olive oil to a saute pan
- Add Anchovies, Garlic & Red Pepper Flakes
- Saute until Garlic Softens
- Stir in Breadcrumbs & Lemon Zest
- Cook until Golden & Crunchy–Set Aside
- Bring a large pot of Salted Water* to a boil and cook Pasta as per directions to Al- dente —While Water is Coming up to a boil..
- Heat 1 Tablespoon Oil in Saute Pan ( you don’t have to wash the pan… keep all the garlic essence in there)
- Add Greens, Season with Salt & Pepper
- Cook until Wilted, Leave in Pan off heat
- Once Pasta is ready, using tongs transfer Pasta to saute pan with Greens
- Add 1/2 cup Pasta Cooking Water + the Pecorino cheese to the pasta and toss to combine
- Heat remaining Olive Oil in a Separate pan
- Once oil is shimmering Crack the Eggs in the Pan so they sizzle and bubble, as soon as the whites are solid shut the flame off ( or move off heat of you have an electric stove)
- Return to Pasta, Add toasted Bread Crumbs, Herbs + LOTS fresh cracked pepper
- Toss to combine will… taste add more cheese if you like
- Pile in to deep bowls, top each with a Fried Egg, lots Black Pepper, a flurry of Pecorino and some more herbs if you like.
If you have left over pasta it makes a great Frittata for Breakfast or Lunch the Next Day, or just eat it cold like I am doing right this very minute.
* Don’t skimp on the salt– the water should taste like tears or the ocean, properly salted water is the difference between great pasta and good pasta.