Noodling Around

Is it pasta? Not quite.
Is it pasta? Not quite.

Hungry for supple strands of pappardelle smothered in deep red sauce?

You’ll be forgiven if that’s exactly what you think this is.

Yet it’s not.

Peer closer to discover it’s not noodles at all, but a clever tangle of egg omelet strips instead.

“Charred Red Pepper Sauce with Omelet Noodles” is a genius recipe from the new “Mezcla” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy.

“Mezcla” is Spanish for “mix,” “blend,” or “fusion,” which aptly describes the food by its author, Ixta Belfrage. It’s the first solo cookbook by this disciple of Yotam Ottolenghi, who worked for five years at his Nopi restaurant in London, before moving on to work at the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Belfrage considers this cookbook a tribute to the three countries that have most shaped her, and her style of cooking: Italy, where she lived as a child; Brazil, from which her mother hails; and Mexico, where her paternal grandfather lived.

You’ll marvel at the inspired flavors in this book in dishes such as “Kohlrabi with Miso Meuniere,” “Brown Butter Curried Corn Bread,” “Cannelloni Enchiladas,” “Shrimp Lasagna with Habanero Oil,” and “Black Forest Crumpets” (in which store-bought crumpets or English muffins get caramelized in sugar and butter, then adorned with cherries, berries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream).

The egg omelet noodles start with nothing more than seasoned, whisked whole eggs. Pour a little into a heated nonstick pan on the stovetop, adding just enough to cover it entirely but still keeping it as thin as a crepe. When the top is no longer raw looking, lift up an edge with a spatula to roll up the omelet and remove to a cutting board. Continue in this fashion until you’ve used up all the egg mixture.

The rolled omelets.
The rolled omelets.
The omelets cut into wide strands like pasta.
The omelets cut into wide strands like pasta.

The sauce starts with broiling red bell peppers until their skins start to blacken in parts. While you might expect the next step to involve peeling off the charred skin and discarding, that’s not where this recipe goes. Instead, you keep the skin on, removing only the seeds, stem, and core.

Add the peppers to a blender, along with heavy cream, a garlic clove, grated nutmeg, lemon juice and lemon zest, a dab of tomato paste, and a generous amount of grated Parmesan. Blitz until smooth.

Heat the sauce in a pan, add the omelet noodles, and gently combine. Serve garnished with more Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and a grinding of black pepper.

Initially, you might think the amount of omelet noodles lacking. But this is a rich dish, thanks to the cream, so you’ll definitely end up with two ample servings.

A saucy dish.
A saucy dish.

The omelet noodles are tender, eggy, and fluffy, with a few crispy edges here and there. The velvety sauce, which clings beautifully to everything, is full of grassy, green flavor with the charred skins adding to the caramelized sweetness that pervades.

This is a very saucy dish. So much so that you’ll want to have some crusty bread to swipe through all that abundant sauce.

While this sauce could easily be used on regular pasta, too, this inventive dish is a boon to anyone on a low-carb, grain-free or gluten-free diet. Or just anyone who wants to try something a little different and a whole lot delicious.

A close-up of the omelet noodles.
A close-up of the omelet noodles.

Charred Red Pepper Sauce with Omelet Noodles

(Serves 2)

For omelet noodles:

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk or water

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

For charred red pepper sauce:

3 red romano or red bell peppers

1 small clove of garlic, finely grated/crushed

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving

1 lemon: 1/2 teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 teaspoon juice

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon tomato paste (or red pepper paste if you can find it)

1/3 teaspoon fine salt

About 50 twists of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to the highest broiler setting.

Arrange peppers on a rack set over a baking sheet. Broil on the top rack of the oven until soft and blackened in patches, 7 to 8 minutes, then turn the peppers and broil for another 4 to 8 minutes, or until that side is soft and blackened in patches, too. Keep an eye on them — they may be ready sooner if your broiler runs hot. Set aside and let cool.

Put all the ingredients for the noodles into a medium bowl and whisk until fully combined. Pour into a spouted measuring cup.

Heat a large 12-inch nonstick frying pan (see note) over medium-high heat. Once hot, grease the pan with 1 teaspoon of oil and turn the heat down to medium-low. Pour a quarter (or less, if your pan is small) of the egg mixture into the pan and immediately swirl the pan so the egg covers the surface evenly — it should be about as thin as a crepe. cook for about 1 minute 15 seconds, or until the top of the omelet is no longer wet or sticky. Remove the pan from the heat and use a spatula to help you roll up the omelet, then slide the roll onto a cutting board. Continue in the same way with the remaining mixture, until you have four long rolls.

Remove the stems and seeds from the peppers, then transfer the peppers (including the skin and any liquid) to a blender. Add all the remaining sauce ingredients and blitz until smooth.

Line up the omelet rolls. With a sharp knife, slice them crosswise at 3/4-inch intervals. Use your hands to carefully separate and unravel the noodles.

Return the frying pan to medium heat with the sauce. Warm for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the noodles. Carefully toss so the noodles are coated in sauce, being careful not to break them, then transfer to plates. Finish with plenty of Parmesan, oil, and black pepper.

From “Mezcla” by Ixta Belfrage

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