One of my favorite things that I used to love to do with my grandmother when she was alive—besides cooking or eating together—was to watch cooking shows. We loved to bask in the general brilliance of people like Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, but even better, I have to confess, was when somebody she loved to hate was on the screen.
“Imbroglione!” she would yell whenever Lidia Bastianich was cooking, utterly convinced that by turning the simplest Italian peasant cuisine—which is to say, our cuisine—into a daily, glamorous cooking show, Lidia was pulling the wool over America’s eyes, making a big deal out of the kinds of foods that we ate daily—and thus, in her mind, were not deserving of such attention. It would be the equivalent of an American going on TV and showing the world how to microwave a Hot Pocket. Meanwhile, I would sit beside her, giggling at her outbursts—and completely drooling over the gorgeous food that Lidia was cooking.
I remember one day in particular, we were watching Lidia fry some leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce—an act that already had Nonna riled up with suspicion. She could hardly believe what happened next—Lidia beat some eggs in a cup, and poured them into the pan, right over the pasta. A pasta omelette. Here was a dish that we had never had at home, but I had enjoyed many times in a cafeteria in a little Roman beach town—that combination of crispy noodles and hearty egg being just what you needed when you had stayed too long in the sun and your hunger threatened to hijack a bus. “IMBROGLIONE!” roared Nonna. I didn’t have the heart to tell her this is one of my favorite things to eat for lunch.
Just about any kind of leftover pasta works—any shape, any form of tomato sauce, but also aglio e olio, or pesto. If there is a lone leftover meatball or sausage, just throw that in too. Sautee the goods first, then add some beaten eggs and wiggle the pan to let it spread to the edges. Finally, throw it under the broiler until the top puffs up. I am sure you will enjoy it even more than I, because you won’t have the tiny nagging voice in the back of your mind… “imbroglione!”