Something crumby makes pasta even better

Bread Crumb Spaghetti.
Bread Crumb Spaghetti.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

(THE WASHINGTON POST) - Carb lovers, this one is for you. In the vein of potato pizza and squash risotto, it is a carb-on-carb treatment that is also one of the best, time-honoured pantry-friendly dishes I can think of: pasta with breadcrumbs.

But not just any breadcrumbs. 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 wholegrain pasta an all-important crunch, along with garlicky flavor enlivened with a little lemon zest.

In Italy, those breadcrumbs are called muddica, as Nina Olsson writes in her lovely new book, Bowls Of Goodness (Kyle, 2017). And while they are the key to this dish, they are 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

Four servings

The dish depends on good, fresh breadcrumbs (not dried). To make them, tear your favourite 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 do not want powder.)

Adapted from Bowls Of Goodness: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes Full Of Nourishment by Nina Olsson (Kyle, 2017).

Ingredients

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed

340g dried wholegrain spaghetti (may substitute another long pasta of your choice)

5 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups fresh, coarse breadcrumbs (see headnote)

⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

1 tsp plus 1 Tbs freshly grated lemon zest

4 cups baby spinach

Method

1. Bring 4 litres 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 Tbs of the oil.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 3 Tbs of the oil. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few seconds, then add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat evenly. Toast until golden brown for three to four minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in salt, pepper and 1 tsp of the lemon zest, then transfer to the large bowl.

3. Reheat the pan over medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the baby spinach and cook for one 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.

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

Nutrition | Per serving: 560 calories, 16g protein, 86g carbohydrates, 19g fat, 3g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 430mg sodium, 2g dietary fibre, 0g sugar