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pasta with crispy capers and breadcrumbs

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pasta con pangrattato

Being lazy pays off, I’ve found it to be true time and time again. I was baking some fish and I was going to dress it with lemon caper butter but couldn’t be bothered to cook it on the hob in a small skillet, as it should be. I bunged the tray for the fish into the oven to preheat and I scattered the capers on it – to be stirred into butter on a hot tray after the fish is done. I opened the oven some ten minutes later and whoosh! fumes billowed out (rapidly evaporating salt, I later realised) and beautiful, crisp caper blossoms appeared on the tray.

pappardelle with crispy capers

Fish was baked in another dish, lemon butter forgotten, and we couldn’t get enough of the crunchy salty wonders. Immediately I started thinking how those beauties could be utilised – a little too salty and pricey for a snack – and here’s what I’ve come up with.

pasta with capers and breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are an age-old pasta dressing, poor man’s Parmesan.  Textures are great here; everything is crispy and crunchy and salty – so those with hypertension, be warned. Skip the bacon for veggie version, rinse and drain, and rinse and drain, or even soak and rinse and drain the capers if you’re not obsessed with uber-salty bites like I am. Even skip the Parmesan and throw more breadcrumbs in instead – this is truly gorgeous simplicity, up there with cacio e pepe or aglio e olio.

pasta with crispy capers and breadcrumbs

Servings: 4Time: about 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 360-400g (12-14oz.) dried pasta of your choice (strands or small shapes)
  • 3 tbsp. capers, rinsed well and drained on a sieve
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon, diced into lardons
  • 4 tbsp. panko breadcrumbs
  • zest grated from one lemon
  • 4 tbsp. grated Parmesan
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ bunch finely chopped parsley
  • salt and black pepper
bacon, capers, herbs


METHOD

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7.  Drizzle 1 tbsp. olive oil over a small baking tray. Place the diced bacon and the drained capers on the tray but don’t mix them together. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once, until the capers have opened up like flowers and both they and the bacon are crisp. Keep warm.

capers and bacon

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan. Add the breadcrumbs and the lemon zest and toast over medium heat, stirring frequently, until crisp and golden, for about 4-5 minutes.

toasted breadcrumbs

In the meantime put a large pan of salted water to boil for the pasta.

When the breadcrumbs are toasted, season them with black pepper and add half the grated Parmesan and half the parsley; mix well.

pappardelle

Cook the pasta al dente according to the package instructions. Drain and add to the pan with the breadcrumbs over low heat. Increase the heat to cook off any moisture and toss the pasta with the breadcrumbs.

Divide between serving plates and top with the capers, crispy bacon, more Parmesan and chopped parsley.

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