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Crisped pasta

Associated Press

Olive oil

Cold cooked pasta, preferably penne

Sea salt

Pasta sauce or toppings

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet and heat for a couple of minutes until hot but not smoking.

Add a couple of handfuls of pasta, in clumps if necessary, and use a wooden spoon to gently level the pasta into a single layer. Do not crowd the skillet.

Cook, without stirring or even so much as peeking at the bottom of a single piece of pasta, until the pasta begins to blister, crisp and turn golden brown on the bottom, at least 2 minutes.

If using penne, use the wooden spoon or a spatula, flip the pasta in chunks, much as you would a hash. If using spaghetti or linguine, wait a minute or two longer until the pasta forms a crisped nest and then deftly attempt to flip it all at once.

Continue to cook, increasing the heat slightly if necessary, until the pasta is slightly crisp, golden and oddly puffed on the other side, about 3 minutes or so. Do not turn your back to wash the dishes or open a bottle of wine.

Transfer the pasta to a plate and sprinkle it immediately with sea salt. Top, if desired, with sauce or other toppings.

Possible toppings

Green Olive and Lemon Relish: On a cutting board, use the flat side of a chef’s knife to smash several large green olives, such as Cerignola. Remove and discard the pits and coarsely chop the flesh. Sprinkle some lemon zest over the olives, scrape the mixture into a bowl and add enough oil to bind the ingredients together. Season with black pepper to taste.

Artichoke and Parmesan Sauce: Drain, rinse and pat dry some jarred or canned artichokes. In a skillet over medium-low heat, heat 2 or 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil just until the garlic begins to turn golden at the edges. Add the artichokes and heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Transfer to a plate or cutting board, sprinkle with thinly shaved or grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese to taste. Use the back of a fork to smash the artichoke mixture into a coarse paste. Season with black pepper to taste.

Asparagus Saute: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat a thinly sliced clove of garlic in just enough oil to barely coat the bottom. Add a few handfuls of trimmed pencil-thin asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths and cook, stirring only occasionally, until the asparagus becomes lightly browned and almost crisp at the tips, 5 to 7 minutes. It may be necessary to reduce the heat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated lemon zest or pecorino cheese to taste.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Jumble: In a bowl, gently stir together some coarsely chopped ripe tomatoes, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of torn fresh basil leaves, about 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Set aside for a few minutes. Stir again, being sure the sugar is dissolved.

Wilted Garlicky Greens: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of oil and 2 to 3 thinly sliced cloves of garlic until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden. Add several handfuls of rinsed, dried and coarsely chopped Swiss chard leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and, if desired, slightly crisped at the edges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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