A couple of Christmases ago, we hosted the big holiday dinner in what was then our new home. I reeled with grand visions of rustic roasts, an ocean of hearty, comforting, yet modern and interesting sides, well-chosen wine, and some sort of rich dessert that would go every bit as far as clinching the meal without crossing the line into weighing down our guests as they toddled out of our house. On the one hand, it was all rather ambitious; on the other hand, menu planning for a gathering is probably among my top three favorite ways to spend my time, so I was up for the challenge.
The thing was, the menu was full of dishes I had never made before. On a scale of 1 (you’ve ruined Christmas) to 10 (I want to eat this every day forever), I think everything fell somewhere between a 6 and a 9.5. And yet, as I sat back watching the jollity (YES IT’S A WORD), and remembering I was in my first trimester of pregnancy so wait a second, why did I make this gorgeous meal if I couldn’t even enjoy it?, I felt a little sad. Part of it was hormones, sure, and maybe a bit of post-rush/stress letdown now that the day was finally here, but part of it was – would I call it regret? – at not being able to get to know these dishes a little better and make them my own before serving them. I made them pretty much by the letter, and it felt like we barely got to know each other before showtime. Though I wouldn’t call it a mistake (the meal really did turn out fine), I haven’t done that again since.
LUCKILY, that is not the case with the recipe I’m talking about today. Today I’m talking about spaghetti pie.
Spaghetti pie is that new neighbor that brings YOU a homemade baked good when she moves in down the street. You’re trying to act all polite and chill, and spaghetti pie is all, “I’m getting a pedicure Saturday and you’re coming,” and you’re like “Um cool?” and then it turns out that you and spaghetti pie were actually meant to be best friends since the universe was conceived and you’ve basically just been waiting your whole lives to meet each other and talk about dudes and jeans and Game of Thrones.
Spaghetti pie is easy to get to know and manages to be not only appropriate in every situation, but instantly becomes EVERYONE’S NEW FAVORITE THING EVER with any audience.
In-laws coming to town? Need a tasty (but not too gourmet), nice-looking (but approachable) dinner? Spaghetti pie.
But what if I also want something that is filling and will give me the precious gift of lunchtime leftovers without doubling a batch? Spaghetti pie.
Yeah OK but what if I don’t have time to dream up any other sides beyond like the most boring basic salad with whatever vinaigrette is in my fridge and a few hasty shaves of parmesan? GIRL SERIOUSLY SPAGHETTI PIE I’M NOT PLAYING.
Friends, all of these conditions were true last Friday when I first made this, and I have never felt so supported and loved by a dish. Spaghetti pie is there for you.
I have seen this recipe in a few places, but used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe (and superclutch tip to wrap the pan in foil) as a base. I took out the funkadelic fontina (though I would 100% use it in the future) and replaced it with mozzarella, and subbed in sauteed chard with garlic and red pepper flakes instead of broccoli rabe. I appreciated that this meant I didn’t have to worry about additional moisture from the greens, but I am sure it’s great with the rabe too. There are practically limitless other variations: you can go old-school checkered-tablecloth and do it spaghetti & meatballs style, or do a sort of carbonara vibe with crispy pancetta bits, or add a boatload of leftover diced roasted vegetables (and use maybe a slightly bigger pan) to lighten it up.
For pasta shapes, I do love how pretty the spaghetti turns out, but I’ve seen this done with tubed pasta too – rigatoni would be nice, or ziti. You may not end up with as dense a result due to the hollow pasta, which may mean people eat seconds, which may mean you don’t get as many leftovers, which may mean you’re having a sandwich for lunch the next day. But sandwiches are great so I’m not gonna worry about you.
For those playing along at home: YES, this recipe adheres to my new favorite 5-ingredient goal. Praise hands emoji.
- Two bunches rainbow, red, or green chard
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 pound of grated/shredded cheese, divided – I used half pecorino and half mozzarella
- Aaaaand salt, pepper, and olive oil
Special equipment: a 9- or 10-inch springform pan; lots of aluminum foil; large mixing bowl
Preheat oven to 425F. Thoroughly grease your springform pan – both the base and the sides – with fat of your choice (olive oil, butter, etc). Then, wrap the base of the pan – specifically, the seam where the base meets the sides – in a few sheets of foil. This will prevent the custard mixture from seeping out (and ruining Christmas/your birthday/Friday). Then line a cookie sheet with an additional layer of foil. Set the pans aside.
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions, but stop just short of it being done. I shaved off about a minute from the minimum cooking time for al dente; the pasta will cook further in the hot oven. Drain it well and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, combine the eggs and milk in a large bowl, whisking the eggs until beaten. Add half the cheese, then add 2 teaspoons of salt (you may add more later to taste, depending on the cheese you’re using), and a TON of black pepper – about 3 teaspoons. Ideally, you’re grinding it fresh, but no one will get hurt if it’s pre-ground. Combine and set aside.
Wash the chard thoroughly. (Mine was gorgeous but filthy-sandy.) Strip the chard leaves from the ribs. You’re welcome to use the ribs – chop them finely – or save them for another use (vegetable soup is my favorite spot for vegetable trimmings!). Chop the leaves thoroughly, but no need to make them tiny. They’ll cook down considerably.
Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you’d like to throw in some herbs, spices, or garlic, you can toast them briefly in the warm oil before adding the chard. Once the oil is hot, add the chard, stirring occasionally until the greens have cooked down and are no longer giving off much, if any water. Salt and pepper to taste, adding a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like, and if they’re handy.
Add the chard to the milk and egg mixture, stirring to combine. Add the drained pasta to the bowl and combine everything thoroughly. (Dig out the bottom for rogue pasta!)
Dump the mixture – carefully, if you can; it can splatter – into the prepared springform pan. Set the pan on top of the prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top becomes brown and bubbly. Test for doneness in the middle – if a toothpick comes out clean, you’re good to go!
This serves 8 people very comfortably – it’s extremely filling! Keeps great as leftovers for about a week.