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Features

Fresh bread crumb topping makes pasta even better

Bread Crumb Spaghetti
Bread Crumb Spaghetti

Carb lovers, this one’s for you. In the vein of potato pizza and squash risotto, it’s a carb-on-carb treatment that is also one of the best, time-honored pantry-friendly dishes I can think of: pasta with bread crumbs.

But not just any bread crumbs. These are fresh ones (save the dry ones for another day) that you pan-fry while the pasta is boiling away. Trust me, as soon as the smell of bread-meets-garlic-meets-olive-oil starts hitting the air in your kitchen, your intended eaters will feel the pull to the kitchen, if not the stove. Those crumbs deliver to a bowl of whole-grain pasta an all-important crunch, along with garlicky flavor enlivened with a little lemon zest.

In Italy, those bread crumbs are called muddica, as Nina Olsson writes in her lovely new book, “Bowls of Goodness” (Kyle, 2017). And while they’re the key to this dish, they’re not the only appeal. Olsson adds further nourishment to the bowl with baby spinach, an impulse I appreciated so much I ended up doubling the amount.

Even I can eat only so many carbs, as delicious as these are, at one meal without a little something green, after all.

Bread Crumb Spaghetti

4 servings

The dish depends on good, fresh bread crumbs (not dried). To make them, tear your favorite bread (it can be stale) into chunks, drop them in a food processor and pulse until they are reduced to pieces no bigger than a pea. (Some pieces can be smaller, but you don’t want powder.)

– Adapted from “Bowls of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full of Nourishment,” by Nina Olsson (Kyle, 2017)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

12 ounces dried whole-grain spaghetti (may substitute another long pasta of your choice)

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups fresh, coarse bread crumbs (see headnote)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

4 cups baby spinach

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add a generous pinch or two of salt, then add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions (al dente). Drain and transfer to a large bowl, reserving a little of the pasta cooking water, then drizzle the pasta with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds, then add the bread crumbs and stir to coat evenly. Toast until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the teaspoon of salt, the pepper and 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, then transfer to the large bowl.

Reheat the pan over medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the baby spinach and cook for 1 minute, or until wilted, then add the cooked pasta, tossing it with the spinach. If the mixture seems dry, add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper, as needed.

Serve warm, in bowls with the bread crumbs and remaining lemon zest sprinkled atop each portion.

• Nutrition per serving: 560 calories, 16 g protein, 86 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 430 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar

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