Monday, February 13, 2006

Torta di Pasta

Note (March 27, 2010): The following post was written during a time of debilitating grief in our family. I only recently re-read it while linking this recipe to a Tweet about a recent meal, and for a brief moment or two, I thought about deleting all the personal information and just leaving the recipe. However, in a small attempt to honor Bailey, our second son, a very premature infant who was stillborn, I would prefer to leave these words here. Deleting them seems to come too close to an erasure of the memory. I know this is a food blog, but it is also a chronicle of life in my family, where meals are enjoyed together, mistakes are made, life is lived, and sometimes souls are laid bare.

For the first week after we lost Bailey, I wandered around my house in a daze. I didn't work, I didn't cook, I didn't clean. I mostly just existed. By the end of that week (a seven-day-long-year), I still couldn't make it through an hour without crying, but I was simultaneously going stir crazy from all the inactivity and while remaining incapable of pulling out of the depression.

The only thing that has really helped me deal with the grief was throwing myself back into a long daily to-do list. As long as I have a list of tasks to accomplish, and as long as my perfectionist tendencies are guiding my hand, I like to think I can make it through nearly any emotional trauma (though I have very little experience with this kind of thing). After all, I have to continue being a mother to Ray no matter what tragedy has befallen us. I still have clients who depend on me, no matter how much I want to lay in bed and wallow in self-pity. The bills still have to get paid, the plants have to be watered, thank you notes must be written, phone calls must be returned... Thank God for busywork.

Even after all the chores are complete, and the work has been finished and delivered to the clients, there are hobbies to indulge in and a family to dote upon. And this is where I derive the most healing and comfort.

For the first few days after the meals from friends were gone, I skulked into the kitchen and managed to pull something together for dinner, but "getting by" isn't my forte. A week ago, I sat down with the Everyday Italian cookbook that my sister-in-law gave to me for Christmas, and I started slapping sticky notes on recipes I wanted to try PRONTO.

During the 16 short weeks of my pregnancy with Bailey, I didn't try many new recipes. I just didn't have the energy nor the stomach for attempting new dishes, and I didn't even feel like reading cookbooks. This past week, I have thrown myself wholeheartedly back into cooking, catching up on my food reading and trying four new recipes in five days.

I have taken immense pleasure in living in the kitchen again, and very few things please me more than holding out a forkful of something new for Preston and Ray to taste. So far, my favorite recipe from Everyday Italian is the Torta Di Pasta, an incredibly textured, unusual-sounding, yet simple pasta pie that I made for the first time one evening last week. Even more amazing was that we ate the leftovers for Sunday brunch three or four days later, and it was still just as satisfying. This recipe will go into heavy rotation in my repertoire.


  • Salt
  • 8 oz dried spaghetti noodles (I used whole wheat spaghetti noodles, of course)
  • 1/2 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated fontina or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  1. Cook the pasta to al dente in a large pot of heavily salted, boiling water. DO NOT OVERCOOK (this means you, mom).
  2. Drain the cooked noodles and toss with the sun-dried tomatoes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, Parmesan, fontina or mozzarella, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and the pepper to blend.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the noodles, and toss to coat.
  5. Preheat the broiler.
  6. In a 9 1/2-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet, preferably cast-iron, melt the butter and oil over medium heat.
  7. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet, pressing to form an even layer.
  8. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  9. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  10. Cut into wedges, and serve hot or at room temperature

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