You Need To Make This Vegan Spaghetti Frittata
I finally perfected a veganized version of a weird and wonderful childhood favorite — Jane Brody’s “spaghetti pancake”
When I was eight-years-old, in 1990, Jane Brody (whose NYT column runs to this day) released her best-selling Good Food Book, a cookbook containing over 350 “high-carbohydrate” recipes, billed as nutritional and satisfying.
Brody’s focus in the ’80s and ’90s was on a high-carb diet for health. In 1981, when her first cookbook became a best-seller, she spoke in interviews about how her husband helped her type the manuscript. “He was a confirmed meat-and-potatoes man with the emphasis on meat. But in the process of typing he became a convert to my nutritional philosophy, so now he’s a meat-and-potatoes man with the emphasis on the potatoes,” she bragged. He lost over 25 pounds in one year.
I’d love to live in this world where pasta, rice, and potatoes are the building blocks of an optimal diet, but alas, high-carb diets have since mostly fallen out of fashion among the health-conscious, in favor of diets like keto which eschews most carbs altogether (no thank you). Still, Brody was ahead of her time in many respects — her book de-emphasized meat as a main dish, and contained a great number of beautiful vegetarian recipes from zucchini lasagna to black bean soup. Though we were not yet vegetarians, my mom was already a fan of vegetarian cooking, and a particular recipe caught her attention: SPAGHETTI PANCAKE.
My mom’s spaghetti with scratch-made marinara sauce was the absolute favorite dinner of my young life, something I looked forward to all day and happily ate to the point of physical discomfort with zero regrets. My dad, brother Mitch, and I all often went back for seconds and sometimes thirds of plain cooked white noodles topped with ladlefuls of her tomato sauce cooked with sauteed onion, garlic, celery, and italian herbs. My mom would triple the sauce recipe and save it for future lunches and dinners, but depending on our appetites we’d sometimes be left with a sizable amount of leftover plain white spaghetti pasta.
Brody’s recipe for spaghetti pancake called for just that: four cups of cooked spaghetti mixed with egg, milk, parmesan, and oregano. The whole eggy pasta mixture is then laid into a nonstick skillet and fried until golden brown on both sides, then cut like a pizza into triangular slices.
I would have eaten the entire skilletful if she’d let me.
I don’t actually have a clear memory of the first time my mom made us spaghetti pancake, but I do remember that on my mom’s copy of the cookbook (which I later referenced as a vegetarian teenager every time I had a craving for spaghetti pancake, which was often) she’d written in her beautiful script “Mitch and Summer love this!!” I’m pretty sure the double exclamation points are canon.
As a vegetarian in my teens and early twenties, I made spaghetti pancake often. I sometimes added new elements —bell peppers, smoked mushrooms, sliced heirloom tomatoes — and frequently upped the cheese quotient. Since going vegan, I’ve experimented with a number of attempts to veganize spaghetti pancake, but since it relies so heavily on the egg-and-parm flavor profile that I feared I would never quite get it right.
Until this weekend.
Every couple weeks I host my friends for brunch and Dungeons and Dragons. It’s one of the best parts of life, and I relish the opportunity to cook for 7–8 people I love. This week while menu planning, I kept revisiting a Minimalist Baker recipe for “easy egg-free frittata” that utilized soaked moong dal (split mung beans), the basis of the newly-popular vegan egg substitute Just Egg — which can be good, but really expensive, especially for a large dish. I had some Moong Dal (available at health food or Indian food stores, or you can order it on Amazon) in the pantry, and while looking over the recipe I realized it might be the secret to my spaghetti pancake craving.
Y’all, I was so right.
This recipe — adapted from Brody’s original and the Minimalist Baker frittata, plus my own flavor tinkering — is rich, eggy, carby, and absolutely, addictively delicious. You could adapt this in a multitude of ways by adding seasonal veg or other types of vegan cheese, but it’s honestly pretty perfect as written. Everyone was a little 😮at the size of my tall, square portions of cheesy, eggy (and yet, dairy and egg free!) baked pasta, but almost every bite served got eaten, along with a deliciously balsamic-heavy fruit salad and steamed asparagus.
Since I needed to make a double batch for the D&D group, I ended up side-stepping the difficult-without-egg-binding process of frying the pancake in a skillet in favor of stuffing everything into a rectangular baking dish, but for a smaller portion you can halve this recipe and use a nonstick skillet to get the full “pizza” effect. Just add earth balance or coconut oil to your skillet first, pour the pasta + “egg” mixture in, flatten it out, skip the toppings, and fry on one side for 10 minutes before flipping (the difficult part) and frying on the other side for five more minutes. You can then cut into thick quarter slices with the end of a metal spatula.
After D&D, there was one thick piece left, and I ate it cold from the fridge for lunch — I have to say, it’s maybe even better that way? Forever feeling blessed by Jane Brody, my mom, Minimalist Baker, and CARBS…
Vegan Spaghetti Frittata
Serves 8 generously
- Two cups moong dal / split mung beans, soaked overnight
- One tablespoon black salt (aka kala namak) — don’t omit, this is what gives this recipe a strong “eggy” flavor
- Two teaspoons ground turmeric
- Two teaspoons onion powder
- Two teaspoons smoked paprika
- Three minced garlic cloves
- One can (13.66 ounces) light coconut milk
- One cup pasta cooking liquid (from spaghetti) — plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- One pound dry spaghetti noodles
- 1 cup vegan parmesan (I used Follow Your Heart’s shreds, or you could sub nutritional yeast here)
- One half of a red onion
- 2–3 small bell peppers
- About 1/4 cup stemmed fresh herbs (I used thyme, oregano, and rosemary, basil is also good) —you can sub dried herbs here
- 1/4 cup of bread crumbs
- Flaky salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- The night before you want to make this, get two cups of moong dal soaking in water overnight. Make sure there’s a few inches of water topping the beans, as they soak up a lot of moisture. TIP: If you’d like, you can soak even more and make extra egg mixture to use within a week for omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and baking — just follow step four below in blender-sized batches and keep the resulting mixture in your fridge.
- Preheat your oven to 400°.
- Cook the spaghetti in salted water and save the cooking liquid. Set cooked and drained pasta aside in the largest bowl you have for a few minutes while you make the egg mixture.
- Drain and rinse the moong dal, and then add all of the ingredients listed for the “egg mixture” above from moong dal to baking powder to a high-powered blender and blend until completely smooth, pushing down any goop sticking to the edges as needed. Depending on the size of your blender, you may need to do this in two batches. If you don’t have a good standing blender, this could be done in a large pot with an immersion blender, but this may take more time. The batter should be thin enough to pour easily, but not watery — pretty much like pancake batter. If the mixture seems too thin/watery, add extra chickpea flour — if it’s too thick, add more pasta water (or plain water if you already dumped it).
- Pour the egg mixture into the drained pasta, then add all but 1/4 cup of the parmesan and about half of the herbs, and mix well. I find it easiest to mix with clean hands, but you can use a wooden spoon if you want.
- Pour pasta/egg/parm mixture into a well-greased 9x13 baking pan and flatten/condense with the bottom of a spatula.
- Slice the red onion and bell peppers as thinly as possible (good time to use a mandoline if you have it), and arrange along with remaining fresh herbs on top of the pasta mixture.
- Sprinkle remaining parmesan and the bread crumbs on top. Add flaky sea salt, and ground pepper to taste.
- Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered — until the pasta frittata is slightly browned and the corner edges look a bit crispy.
- Slice into eight large pieces, serve, and enjoy!