Pasta con la Mollica, the Delicious Dish with Cheap Ingredients

Pasta con la Mollica, the Delicious Dish with Cheap Ingredients

Can you guess what “mollica” is? Let’s find it out in this article with interesting facts about this traditional Southern Italian cooking. This hymn to carbohydrate-pasta with breadcrumbs, sounds decidedly odd, a bit like pasta with potatoes which is another outstandingly tasty bit of death by starch. It is an exemplar of cucina povera, showing how wonderful dishes are often created by the need to use cheap ingredients. What could it be more thrifty than topping your pasta with some crumbled stale bread that’s been cooked with garlic and olive oil?

The mixture of garlic, anchovies, tomato and breadcrumbs is powerful, super-savory and utterly invigorating. So, if you have not gone shopping and it is left only a few ingredients like:

  • salt
  • 85 ml olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 100 g salted anchovies, rinsed, dried nd boned
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 450 g fresh tomatoes, peeled, quartered and seeded
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 75 g stale white bread
  • 350 g penne, maccheroni, bucatini, or similar-shaped dried durum wheat pasta.

…you can cook “Pasta con la Mollica” in the following way:

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 230° C, Gas Mark 8. In a separate saucepan, heat half the oil with the garlic until the garlic is brown. Discard the garlic and add the anchovies. Mash thoroughly into the oil, then stir in the parsley and the tomatoes and season.

Crush the bread into coarse crumbs, then mix with the remaining oil and scatter them all over a baking sheet. Brown in the oven for about 5 minutes, taking care that they do not burn.

Toss the pasta into the boiling water, stir, return to the boil and cook until the pasta is just tender. Drain well and return it to the pan. Pour over the sauce and toss it all together. Transfer into an ovenproof serving dish and scatter with the toasted bread-crumbs. Return to the oven for 2 minutes before serving.

It is absolutely forbidden in the canons of Italian cooking to put grated cheese on any pasta dish made with fish but it is sometimes really tasty to put a little grated Parmesan on this one. (maybe breadcrumbs were a substitute for the more expensive Parmesan cheese) Italian people would say that you should drink only but water when eating pasta, but it is not a surprise if you see most of them accompanying pasta with a glass of wine. So the rules of Italian cooking are both sacred and made to be broken, reflecting the anarchic streak that permeates Italian culture.

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