spaghetti con uovo

This is a very quick and frugal recipe that I had never seen before moving to Greece.  The exact recipe here is my invention, but it’s based on an international recipe, that for some reason is not popular in the US, at least not where I’ve lived.  So I thought I’d share it with you.  It fulfills my most important requirements:  cheap, made with ingredients that are easy to get, and reasonably healthy.

I strongly recommend whole wheat spaghettini or spaghetti for this, rather than white pasta.  The whole wheat pasta stands up much better to the egg yolk.

One egg per person.  I usually use small eggs, and those are fine; however we were given some large eggs as a gift so I used those for this recipe.

Boil the spaghetti al dente in lightly salted water.  While the pasta is boiling, spray a nonstick pan with olive oil and, on medium heat, cook the egg.  Season the egg with salt and pepper before the white sets.

To “fry” an egg without oil and without flipping it over, when the white is cooked on the bottom but still raw on top, cover the pan for a minute until the white on top sets also, but the yolk is still runny.

Drain the pasta.  Stir in a tablespoon of garlic olive oil (I make garlic olive oil with hot Thai peppers and a few other whole spices – this works perfectly here) and a tablespoon of shredded hard cheese (parmesan, myzithra, romano, etc.).

Simply place the egg on top of the pasta.  Sprinkle with fresh rosemary if available.

Spaghetti con uovo
serves 2

220g whole wheat spaghettini or spaghetti
2 chicken eggs, any size
2 tbsp garlic olive oil
2 tbsp shredded myzithra or parmesan
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil spray or nonstick spray

1. Boil pasta al dente in salted water. Drain.

2. “Fry” eggs in nonstick pan lightly sprayed with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Toss pasta with olive oil and cheese. Divide into two plates. Top each plate with an egg, and sprinkle with rosemary.

Nutritional Information
per serving (i.e., 1/2 of recipe), assuming large eggs

566 calories
23g fat (4g saturated, 19 unsaturated)
69g carbohydrate
22g protein
12g dietary fiber
216mg cholesterol (72% DV)
156mg sodium (7% DV)
68mg potassium (2% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
calcium, phosphorus, selenium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin B-12

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pastitsada povera

When I was a fresh-faced college junior, I spent a semester studying in Athens (one of the best times in my life, and which helped seal the deal on me settling here eventually).  That year for Carnival (Mardi Gras), I traveled to the island of Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek).

I had a great time exploring the beautiful city of Kerkyra and the rest of the island.  Little did I know that S – as yet undiscovered by me – was living about a block from where I was out dancing in the streets with my feathery mask.

S lived in Corfu for seven years, and it remains one of his favorite places in Greece.  When we first met, we dreamed of moving to Corfu some day.  We haven’t ruled it out, but we are taking a break from the islands to enjoy the easier lifestyle of the mainland.  But he still longs for Corfu, and when we visited the island together as a married couple, he seemed intent on taking me to at least twenty restaurants in only three (cold, overcast) days.

Corfiot cuisine is heavily influenced by Italian, French, and British cuisine, but it retains its Greek nature and this is what makes Corfiot food so unique.  They tend to use more spices, and to use different spice combinations, than we find in the rest of Greece.

One of the dishes that S really liked was pastitsada, which is basically rooster baked in a spiced tomato sauce, over pastitsada noodles – long thick spaghetti noodles with a hole through the center.  Instead of rooster, veal or chicken are sometimes used.  That’s all a bit rich for us, so I wanted to see if I could just make the sauce and serve it over the pastitsada noodles for a frugal crisis-appropriate version.  I didn’t have really high hopes for this one, but I figured if the end result was a nice, slightly different, red sauce for pasta, that would be just fine.  As it turned out, we loved it – the earthy flavors had enough character that we didn’t even miss the meat.  So if you’re looking for a new twist on the classic spaghetti with tomato sauce, give it a try.

When S came into the kitchen as I was finishing this up, he asked what I was making.  I said (hesitantly) “Pastitsada – without meat.”  He laughed and scoffed – after all, he considers himself somewhat of an expert on this particular dish (the eating of it, anyway).  So I was understandably a little nervous.  We sat down to eat and I asked him, “well, is it anything like pastitsada?”

“No!  It’s not like pastitsada – it is pastitsada!  (Without meat.)”

And then we had a lovely meal, where we talked about Corfu and the other islands in the Ionian Island archipelago.  I’m so happy that this simple sauce brought back so many lovely memories of his favorite island.

The pastitsada noodles are sold by Misko in the Traditional line in Greece.  They’re almost the same as regular pastitsio noodles (spaghetti no. 10).

Boil the noodles.

Cut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on their size.

Saute the garlic in a little olive oil.  Add the spices and the bay leaves and let them toast together.

Stir in the tomatoes and the sauce they’re packed in.  (If your tomatoes come in a watery sauce more like tomato juice than tomato sauce, add 1-2 tbsp tomato paste to the recipe.)  My tomatoes come with a lot of sauce, which I won’t use all of in the dish, but I cook it all together anyway.  Let it simmer.

Add the wine.  Let it simmer.

Melt some butter in the pasta pot over low heat.  Add the drained pasta and half the cheese and stir vigorously to prevent sticking.

Portion the pasta.

Put the tomatoes on the pasta, with a little sauce.  If your tomatoes had a lot of sauce with them like mine, the extra sauce can be used in another recipe (it would be really good in tomato soup).

Note to post skimmers: real pastitsada has rooster meat and is baked in the oven.  This is the frugal and quick version that I made up and I’m not claiming it’s ‘authentic’ in any way!

Pastitsada Povera
Serves 2

230g pastitsada noodles (or spaghetti no. 10 for pastitsio)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp olive oil (from a sprayer or drizzled)
2 cans (800g total) whole tomatoes in tomato sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1 tsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp (30mL) red wine
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp grated myzithra or parmesan cheese, divided

1.  Boil the pasta al dente in a large pot of salted water.  Strain, set aside.  Quarter each of the tomatoes (or halve, if they’re small); reserve the liquid.

2.  Make the sauce while the pasta is boiling.  Spray or drizzle a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the crushed garlic with the spices (bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and paprika).  Stir for two minutes until the spices are fragrant.

3.  Add in the quartered tomatoes (with their liquid), the tomato paste, the sugar, and the salt.  Stir and let simmer for about 5 minutes until it thickens.

4.  Stir in the red wine and simmer for about 15-20 more minutes, allowing it to thicken up again.

5.  Put the butter in the now-empty pasta pot and warm over low heat.  When it melts and starts to turn a golden-brown color, add the drained pasta and stir in 2 tbsp of cheese.

6.  When the cheese has melted, divide the pasta into bowls.  Remove the bay leaves from the sauce.  Top pasta with the tomato quarters and a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce, and the remaining cheese.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., half of the entire recipe

699 calories
13g fat (6g saturated, 7g unsaturated)
123g carbohydrate
24g protein
8g dietary fiber
23mg cholesterol (8% DV)
1,727mg sodium (72% DV) – note: this assumes salted tomatoes, I used sodium free.
1,440mg potassium (41% DV)
Contains a significant amoun t(+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, food folate, manganese, and copper.

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mixed greens pesto with walnuts

Pesto is pretty popular in our house.  There’s something very satisfying about a plate of pasta with pesto.  My favorite pestos are the ones that have depth of flavor, that are not just oily basil goop.  This is a bright and cheery pesto that comes together well before the pasta has boiled, from a few simple ingredients.

Start by putting your water on to boil for your pasta.  You can use any pasta shape you like.  I went with the braided pasta plexoudes because I love it.

Fresh spinach and arugula form the base of this pesto, in a 4:1 ratio.  Frozen won’t work here.

Put half of your cleaned and stemmed spinach and arugula into a food processor with 1 tbsp olive oil.   Process.  Add the rest of the spinach and arugula with another tbsp of olive oil.  Process.

Add the walnuts with another tbsp of olive oil.  Process.

Add the myzithra or parmesan.  Process again.

Add garlic to taste – because the garlic is raw, I just used one clove, and process a final time.  Your pesto is ready!

Two tablespoons per plate of pasta is a generous amount.

Mixed Greens Pesto with Walnuts
makes 4 servings

4 cups packed fresh spinach, stemmed and washed
1 cup packed fresh arugula (rocket), washed
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp walnuts
2 tbsp grated myzithra or parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed

1.  Process the spinach and arugula with 2 tbsp olive oil in a food processor; do in several batches if necessary.

2.  Add walnuts with last tbsp olive oil; process.  Add cheese; process.  Add garlic; process.

3.  Serve with pasta, potatoes, chicken, etc.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of recipe

134 calories
13g fat (2g saturated, 11g unsaturated)
2g carbohydrate
3g protein
1g dietary fiber
2mg cholesterol (1% DV)
68mg sodium (3% DV)
209mg potassium (6% DV)
Contains significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, and manganese.

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Creamy Melian lazania with spinach & a tour of Milos
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creamy Melian lazania with greens & a tour of Milos

No, that wasn’t a typo!  We’re talking about lazania, not lasagne!  The island of Milos is one of my favorite Greek islands.  I’ve only visited twice, once in 2003 by myself, and once in 2011 with S and my mother.  Although it took me seven years to return, I never stopped yearning for Milos.  Before we start cooking, let’s visit just a few spots on the island to get us in the mood.

And who knows… maybe it will inspire you to visit Milos some day!

The village of Klima, located at sea level below the town of Trypiti, is a row of bay-front two-story buildings.  The ground floor is a ship-shed and the upper level is living quarters.  A ship-shed is exactly what it sounds like:  a garage for a fishing boat.  Although Klima is the most famous ship-shed village, there are dozens of villages like this here in the region of the Southwest Cyclades islands.

Across the bay on the northern coast of the island is the lagoon of St. Nicholas.  It’s an important wetland (one of several on Milos), and the two white buildings you see are little churches.  A road goes along here and ends at the village of Emporeio, one of the most peaceful spots on the island.  However, to get this photo, you have to be high up in the area of Xerokampos.

Xerokampos is one of my favorite parts of the island.  Very sparsely populated, it’s green and filled with wildflowers in spring (as is the whole island, of course) with a panoramic view.

The cliffs of Sarakiniko, where we went swimming in April.  The rocks are so white and smooth that it is often called a lunar landscape.  We were completely alone for our swim and long, leisurely picnic.

The dramatic sea-cut channels at Papafranga.  I went swimming here in 2003, when I was in Milos in July, but when we came back last April the rock-cut steps down to the beach were off limits.

So… are you hungry yet?

I came up with this recipe in an effort to replicate a dish I ate once, about a year ago.  I don’t know how accurate it is, but it was delicious and I will definitely make it again.  One of the famous traditional foods of Milos is the pasta ‘lazania,’ which is basically pappardelle.  I can’t buy Melian lazania up here on the mainland (they sell it at restaurants and at traditional shops in Milos though!), but they do sell pappardelle.  However, the pappardelle cost exactly twice what the lasagne cost.

So I buy lasagne and cut it myself.  If you can’t get pappardelle or if your supermarket does the same crazy thing, do what I do!  I promise, the results are excellent.   (Use the flat lasagne, rather than the ruffle-edged kind.)

The original restaurant version only used spinach, but I liked it much better with arugula also, so definitely use both.  The peppery taste of the arugula balances the spinach very nicely.

First, boil the lasagne noodles.  I put olive oil in the pasta water because I think it helps keep the noodles from sticking to each other, which is important.  The worst thing is to have your lasagne noodles come out in a single clump.  I also stir them around pretty much the whole time to reduce the likelihood of sticking.

Meanwhile, clean the spinach:  twist the leaves off the roots and drop in a large pot of cold water with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar in it.  This will help loosen the dirt on the leaves.  Agitate forcefully with your hands.  When you feel that the leaves are clean, lift them out in handfuls to a colander.  Don’t pour them out, because the dirt, which has settled on the bottom of the pot, will just come out onto the leaves again.

Don’t chop the spinach, but chop the arugula.  You don’t have to discard the stems.  No reason to throw anything away!

Saute the garlic in a nonstick pan; then add the spinach and arugula.  Salt.

Drain the lasagne.  If you used pappardelle, ignore this step.  Carefully lay out a lasagne noodle on your cutting board and cut into three equal strips.  Transfer to a plate and continue with the other noodles.  Be very careful not to get a steam burn.

When the noodles are ready, add the lemon zest to the spinach and arugula, and then the noodles with the olive oil, which will keep them from sticking here too.  Stir in the yogurt and the myzithra (or parmesan).

Season with freshly ground pepper and serve.

Creamy Melian Lazania with Greens
Serves 2 (generously)

240g pappardelle or lasagne noodles
1 colander full fresh spinach, washed
1/2 bunch arugula (rocket), ends removed, chopped in 2″ pieces
2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp grated myzithra cheese (or parmesan)
salt & pepper

1.  Boil pappardelle or lasagne noodles in water with 2 tbsp olive oil.

2.  Saute garlic in non-stick pan; add greens and allow to wilt; salt.

3.  Drain pasta.  If using lasagne, cut each noodle into three equal strips.

4.  Stir lemon zest into greens.  Add pasta to pan with remaining olive oil.  Stir in yogurt and cheese.

5.  Serve with freshly ground pepper.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., half the recipe, omitting any salt added at the table

621 calories
18g fat (3g saturated, 15g unsaturated)
95g carbohydrate
21g protein
5g dietary fiber
5mg cholesterol (2% DV)
165mg sodium (7% DV)
646mg potassium (18% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, food folate, manganese, and copper.

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orange-scented chorizo pasta with dried figs

I came up with this recipe because I was determined to bring some bright flavor into our winter-weary home.  And it worked!  I’m very proud of this one – my “throw together pasta + some other stuff” attempts number in the hundreds, probably, but this might just be in my top five.  It’s very frugal, too!

Assemble the ingredients.  I’m using Greek kampanoules (little bells) pasta; Barilla sells this as ‘campanelle,’ but you can use any short cut pasta you like.  Penne, rigatoni, or ziti would all work great here.  So would the Greek plexoudes.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that meat is scarce in our house.  Chorizo is one of my greatest frugal discoveries:  I once spent an extended period of time reading the per kilo price labels on every single salami-type meat in the salami aisle and the deli counter, to find the cheapest one, at our local supermarket (Carrefour).  It turns out that Carrefour brand chorizo is actually the cheapest, tied with their storebrand plain salami.  But it has so much more flavor – it’s spicy and very, very pretty, and only 1.72 for 150g, at least until the price goes up.

The figs… these figs are absolutely delicious!  If you can, get partially rehydrated dried figs.  Regular dried figs are hard and rock-like; partially rehydrated ones are soft and mushy and oh so good!  If you live in Greece, I like the Harmony brand.

That mint came out of my freezer.  I bought a bunch of mint last fall (my herb garden stayed on the island when we moved and I still haven’t restarted it… spring, where are you?) and froze most of it.

First, put some water on to boil; then zest the orange.  Then juice it.  Yes, I use a mechanical lemon squeezer to juice everything:  lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit.  Anyone remember when those were all the rage?  I think Crate & Barrel had them, and there was an orange one for oranges, the yellow one for lemons, and a green one for limes.  Even back then I wasn’t silly enough to fall for that marketing trick!

Cut the figs into slices.  See how gooey they are?  That’s because they’re partially rehydrated – woohoo!

The figs go in the orange juice while everything else is happening.  Isn’t this the most lovely combination of flavors?

Slice the sweet potatoes, chorizo, and mint.  When the water boils, put the pasta in.  A few minutes before the pasta is finished, add the sweet potatoes to the pasta pot.

Heat up a nonstick pan and put the chorizo in; after a minute, add the orange zest.  After another few minutes, add the figs with the orange juice.

Strain the pasta and potatoes.

Add the pasta and potatoes to the pan, with the butter, and stir it all together until the butter is completely melted.

Serve with a few strips of mint on each plate.

Orange-Scented Chorizo Pasta with Dried Figs
Serves 4

250g kampanoules / campanelle pasta
1 small sweetpotato
1 medium orange
30g chorizo in deli thin slices
3 partially rehydrated dried figs
1 tbsp butter
4 leaves mint

1.  Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta.

2.  Zest and juice orange; slice figs; place fig slices in orange juice.

3.  Slice sweetpotato into small sticks.  Slice chorizo into thin strips.  Cut mint into very thin strips.

4.  Three minutes before pasta reaches al dente stage, add sweetpotato to the pasta pot.  When both are ready, strain.

5.  Heat a nonstick skillet and saute chorizo without added fat.  After a minute, add orange zest; stir constantly.  After another minute, add figs with orange juice.  After 2 more minutes, add pasta and sweetpotato; and butter.  Stir all together.

6.  Serve topped with mint strips.

Note:  This is a quick recipe.  If you have time, however, instead of putting the sweetpotato in the pasta pot, roast it in the oven until soft.  The flavor is better, but it takes longer and you have to burn electricity on the oven for one little sweetpotato, so I would only do that if I were already using the oven for something else.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/4 of the total recipe

360 calories
7g fat (3g saturated, 4g unsaturated)
63g carbohydrate
11g protein
4g dietary fiber
14mg cholesterol (5% DV)
136mg sodium (6% DV)
334mg potassium (10% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, manganese, and copper.

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