Thursday, October 24, 2013

Occupy Your Kitchen: Pasta Alla Schmatta

You bet we went back to Rainbow and got another bottle of the McHenry!
My two sisters (and my brother-in-law, hi Mike!) all speak fluent Italian. Why? Because they always have to be showing me up! Well guess what, sisters, I write a food blog! Showed you.

So they will probably be the first to email me and let me know that (1) "schmatta" is not an Italian word and (2) that my grammar is wrong. Forget the grammar! YOLO!*

"Schmatta" is a Yiddish word meaning "rags" as in "a torn or tattered dress", which is appropriate for this dish in every way: here's a plate of pasta made from the scraps left over from rolling out raviolis, tossed in herbs and butter and a smattering of whatever may be laying around your pantry.

"Schmatta" of course is a word most of us goyim heard for the first time as a denigrating nickname for John Turturro's character "Bernie Bernbaum" in Joel and Ethan Coen's Miller's Crossing. Bernbaum is not the most likable character among a cast of grifters, cheats, thugs and blockheads, yet Turturro inhibits the role with gusto - a reliable scenery chewer (and I mean that in the best possible way) in a film that is stylistic and lushly filmed. The nickname, "schmatta", may also be a subtle spoiler... so go watch the movie if you haven't. It's a classic.


"Pasta alla Schmatta" is not so stylish. Here we're using the original Yiddish meaning. Although it may be simple, if done just right it might be the best lunch you can make yourself after a long day of rolling out pasta.

Pasta Alla Schmatta:

  • Pasta scraps, cut into roughly 2 1/2" x 1" strips.
  • 1 tablespoon of butter.
  • 2 anchovy fillets (packed in oil), chopped.
  • 1 tablespoon of anchovy oil.
  • 4-5 leaves of sage, torn.
  • 4-5 leaves of basil, torn.
  • 5-6 chopped roasted almonds.
  • Grated hard cheese of your choosing to taste (I'm using an 18 month gouda I had laying around, but pecorino Romano or Parmagiano-Reggiano).

Bring a quart of heavily salted water to the boil in a saucier while you heat a dry sautée pan over high heat.

Timing here is key:

  1. When the water breaks into a boil, add pasta and give it a stir; reduce heat to a simmer.
  2. Count to 15.
  3. Add butter, sage, anchovies and anchovy oil to sautée pan and reduce heat to medium.
  4. When the butter foams and starts to brown, pasta is ready. Use a brass spider and plunge pasta into sautée pan, moving constantly. Return heat to high.
  5. Add a splash of pasta water as needed.
  6. Add almonds. 
  7. Continue to move pasta around to prevent sticking. When water evaporates pasta will begin to brown slightly. 
  8. Remove pasta to serving dish. If some stuck, scrape it off into your serving dish. The crispy bits = the good bits.
  9. Garnish with basil and cheese.
Total time from start to finish should be less than 10 minutes.

Lachaim and buon appetito!

( * Click the link! We dare you! YOLO!)