Someone in a Discord server I’m in (not even a foodie one, just a “hey look at this cursed bullshit” one) recently posted a link to a recipe on Food52 claiming that the best way to make spaghetti is to roast it first.  At first, I thought, “Beautiful, just my brand of terrible food crimes, I could kiss you on the mouth.”

But we here at Food Bytes Back are dedicated to saying, “hey, but what if it was more fucked up, but in the most logical way possible?”  (Mostly because I can’t just point at a 4-year-old recipe and say “lol.”)

You see, Food52 says that this is the logical next step for those who like the roasty-toasty flavors of roasted vegetables, but to me there’s one thing missing.  Roasting vegetables aren’t just thrown in the oven dry, you gotta put some olive oil, salt, and pepper on those bad boys!  So I’ve decided to do a little experiment: I’ll do a pan of dry-roasted spaghetti as a control, and a pan of oiled and seasoned spaghetti just to see what happens.  

It may also be worth pointing out that I’m using “Thin Spaghetti” here, because that’s what I had.  As such, I will still be roasting at Food52’s suggested 350F, but for much less than their suggested 10-15 minutes.

Attempt #1

Ah, shit. I was playing with the cat and got distracted.  

Attempt #2

Wow, this stuff really does turn fast, huh.  This time around, I did it for 5 minutes, then checked  every minute for what would end up being 2 more minutes, and it still went a little darker than I would have liked.  But because my impatience (and/or hesitance to just bake off all of my mom’s spaghetti) was getting the better of me, I decided that this would have to be good enough.  

If you can’t tell from the picture, the oiled pasta definitely took on more of a fried-looking texture, which is more-or-less what I was looking for.

Alright, now it’s time for a step that Food52 says is optional: Rehydrating the freshly baked pasta.  They say you can actually boil it as is, but that it will take longer to cook and just won’t get more cooked than al dente (which sounds like a good thing tbh).  But if I’m going full gremlin with this, then I wanna put the spaghets in plastic bags and fill them with water, and let them hang out for a bit (The original recipe says 2 ½ hours, but again, this is thin spaghetti, so I did like 2).

“Gee, Riley,” you say. “The counter’s looking a little wet there, did you not seal the bag all the way?” Listen here, jackass.  Don’t fuck with me.  I will cry.

Ok, so post-soak there’s still a noticeable difference.  The most-roasted of the oiled ones didn’t seem to rehydrate as much as the most-roasted of the plain ones, and the oiled ones in general seem much less flexible than the plain ones.  It’s almost as if oil and water don’t mix or something. Also, the bag water on both is noticeably brown, which makes me think that some of my roasty goodness may have seeped out of the pasta.

The original recipe said that this would cook about the same as “regular pasta,” which I assumed meant dry pasta, but, as it turns out, they meant fresh.  Who would have guessed that rehydrated pasta would cook so quickly.

I gotta say, eaten plain, it’s a little disappointing.  Only my most burnt noods have any toasty flavor on them at all.  Was I supposed to boil it in that bag water? That would have probably helped keep some of that toastiness intact.  That being said, even plain, it is a step up from eating regular plain pasta; I wouldn’t call it “toasty” but the flavor is… more concentrated?  When paired with one of their serving suggestions, a “no-cook ricotta, parsley and olive oil sauce”  (read: ricotta, parsley and olive oil mixed together) it works a little better.  The herabciousness of the parsley actually helped bring out some of the nuttiness.  (Holy shit… I never thought I would say that parsley actually added something to a dish…)

I don’t know if it’s placebo effect or maybe it’s just because this tray got a little more burnt, but I feel like the toastiness is more present here.  And, when eaten plain, there’s a little bit of fruitiness from the olive oil, too.  The salt and pepper seem to more or less wash off in the bag water, however.  It may also be worth noting that that fried-looking texture I mentioned earlier has translated into a very strange, irregular texture post-boil.  It’s possible that the main reason why the original didn’t say to use oil was for the sake of having a more Instagram-able final dish.  Said textural deformities are essentially completely covered up by the sauce, however, so it’s basically like they were never really there.

Attempt #3

More than anything else, I was curious how well this would keep in dry storage if roasted ahead of time.  After all, I’m not going to be reaching for the sheet trays every time I want to make spaghetti, I’d much rather be able to roast off a whole box, then put it back in the box and have it ready to go whenever I want.  And the original recipe suspiciously doesn’t say anything about being able to do so. So I set aside some from my initial experiment (Friday) to cook off today (Monday).  

Surprise surprise, nothing happened to the pasta over the course of 3 days.  It was so underwhelming I forgot to take a picture of it before putting water in the bag.  Speaking of which, I think I’m gonna adjust the soak time to about 45 minutes to account for the thin spaghets.

Hmm… even at 45 minutes there still seems to be a noticeable amount of brownness leaching out into the water (in hindsight you can’t really tell up against a wood counter, but take my word for it). It’s also not nearly as flexible, not that that really matters since we’re just gonna boil it anyways. 

Ok, bringing the soak time down to 45 minutes didn’t really help protect the roasted flavor, it pretty much tastes just like that first batch.  If anything, the reduced soak time may have hindered them, because some of the noodles seemed to be only partly rehydrated, resulting in a mushy outer layer with an extremely al dente core, which was an interesting mouthfeel to experience.  However, I feel like I can officially call this part of the experiment a success, since none of these oddities have anything to do with my main goal here: Can the pasta be roasted ahead of time? Yes. 

Final Verdict

If you don’t care about the strange appearance, a healthy dose of olive oil on your spaghetti pre-roasting is the way to go.  But is the roasting worth it in the first place?  Overall, I think it’s a fun party trick, but I don’t think it’s something I can say makes a ton of difference if you’re just cooking for yourself.  Unless you, you know, actually follow their recipe and use a spaghetti of regular thickness.  Maybe that was the secret to unlocking its full potential all along.  

[Hey, do yall think this would have been better as a video? I’d like to get into video production some time in the near future, especially for things with actual cooking in them or longer, rambley essays]

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