The Traditional Italian Method To Give Pasta A Crunchy Boost

When it comes to cooking pasta, the region of Puglia in southern Italy takes a bit of a different approach. Instead of boiling the pasta in water in a large pot, Apulians throw their pasta right in the frying pan. One method called risottatura essentially cooks the pasta like a risotto calling for the cook to add in more water every time the liquid is absorbed by the pasta. The end result is almost like a pan-fried pasta that's al dente in the middle but has a crisp edge.

There is another method involving olive oil that TV show and podcast host and cookbook author Christopher Kimball discovered while touring the region for unusual pasta recipes. At Le Zie Trattoria in the town of Lecce, owner Anna Carmela Perrone prepares a dish that consists of both crispy and al dente pasta, combined together with a stew of tender chickpeas. Instead of using water as done in risottatura, the technique used at Le Zie involves cooking fresh pasta directly in a pan filled with olive oil and shallow frying the noodles. This yields a truly crispy, almost chip-like crunch. 

This is a technique that is easily replicated in a home kitchen and could be applied across a wide variety of pasta recipes. By swapping water for olive oil, this method of getting a crispy, but cooked, pasta is a surefire way to liven up any pasta meal in need of a refresh.

Toast in olive oil for a crispy finish

To start with, you are going to need two things for this method: fresh pasta and a quarter cup of olive oil. Use fresh pasta as opposed to boxed because the fresh pasta still has a bit of moisture to it thanks to the presence of eggs. This means that while the interior of the pasta is steamed and cooked, the outside will be crisp. It is also less likely to burn. Dried pasta, on the other hand, has very little moisture content, and will likely brown and burn quickly without actually being cooked.  

First, you'll prepare your pasta by cutting it into 2-inch pieces in order for it to fit in the pan and stop it from tangling when it's stirred. Cook the pasta and the oil together in one large pot or skillet over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Your pasta should be thoroughly browned and crispy when finished. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crispy pasta to a paper towel to allow any excess oil to run off.

After this, you can toss it into any pasta dish you'd like. It could be added as a crispy component to a pasta salad or thrown into a regular green salad as an alternative for croutons. You could even blitz it in a food processor and use the chopped, fried pasta as a binding element for meatballs. Get creative and see what you can come up with!