Fasting Day Eggless Spaghetti Omelet
Serves 4 as a pasta or main course,
6 to 8 as an antipasto
This is called a frittata but it is not made with eggs. It is a cake of fried spaghetti seasoned with the usual and much-beloved Neapolitan condiments of garlic, olives, anchovies, capers, hot pepper, and parsley. It merely resembles a frittata. As admired as this dish is, I know busy Neapolitan families in which no one has time to nurse the pancake to its requisite crispness, which is why faces often light up particularly bright when Frittata di Scammaro is brought to the table or served as a snack.
Scammaro refers to days of fasting, and this is one of the so-called lean dishes. (Cammaro is an antique dialect word for a day when meat could be eaten. Adding the prefix "s" to the word is, in Italian, negating the action—as we use "un" in English.) While it contains no meat or dairy; it does have a significant olive oil content. Fortunately or unfortunately I have found no way of being meager with the oil and turning out a pancake as crisp on the surface as it must be to be delectable. It takes time to accomplish, too—an hour of nearly constant attention.
12 ounces thin spaghetti
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and finely chopped
3 whole salted anchovies, thoroughly rinsed and filleted,
or 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed
2 tablespoons salted capers,
thoroughly rinsed, chopped if large
1/4 teaspoon (or less to taste) hot red pepper flakes
1 rounded tablespoon finely cut parsley
1. Cook the spaghetti until al dente in plenty of salted, boiling water. Drain well.
2. In a 10-inch skillet (a nonstick omelet pan or cast-iron skillet is perfect), over medium-low heat, combine the 1/4 cup oil and the garlic. Cook the garlic a minute or so, but before it begins to color, add the olives, the anchovies, the capers, the pepper, and the parsley and mix well. Increase the heat very slightly and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, mashing the anchovies into the oil until they dissolve. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the spaghetti and toss well to distribute the seasonings throughout.
3. Add 2 tablespoons more olive oil to the same skillet (1 tablespoon if using a nonstick skillet). Place over medium heat, then return the dressed spaghetti to the pan, distributing it evenly and pressing it down a little. Cook, continuing to press down occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the bottom and sides of the frittata are well browned, about 30 minutes. To get the bottom and sides of the frittata evenly crisped and browned, rotate the pan over the heat, tipping and holding it so that the outside edge of the pan can also benefit from direct heat. (This can be done with an electric burner, as well as gas.) Also, as the frittata fries, rotate a knife around the edge to prevent it from sticking to the pan, and shake the pan occasionally so the bottom doesn't stick. (Do this with a nonstick pan as well.)
4. When the bottom and sides of the frittata have browned, slide it onto a large dinner plate or platter, then flip it back into the pan with the uncooked side down, adding a little more oil to the pan if it seems necessary.
5. Cook the second side like the first, also paying attention to the edges if they didn't seem brown enough when you flipped the frittata. When all sides have browned well, turn the frittata onto absorbent paper. Pat the top with paper, too.
6. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, cut into wedges (scissors work best), as an antipasto, first course, or second course.
Naples at Table
Cooking in Campania
By Arthur Schwartz
Hardback, $27.50, November 1998
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created July 1999
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