For Easter—or anytime you’re looking for some food fun—these pasta nests are a festive way to enjoy one of America’s favorite foods.
The nests are simply ribbon pasta like angel hair, rolled into a bird’s nest form while the pasta is still fresh.
The Italian word is sformatini*, but it’s easier to call them nests. Names can vary by region. For example:
Nests are not a traditional pasta dish. They only appear in recent cookbooks, made with any combination of ingredients.
This recipe, from DeLallo, turns Spaghetti Carbonara into a bird’s nest, with a few substitutions (like angel hair pasta/capellini for the spaghetti).
1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin pan.
2. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Set aside.
3. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. With a slotted spoon, gently lower the pasta nests into the boiling water. They will cook fairly quickly, about three minutes. Gently remove them, tapping off excess water on the rim of the pot, and place them in the muffin cups.
4. STIR together in a large bowl, the cream, 1/2 cup cheese, nutmeg and paprika. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. SCOOP the pasta from the hot water with a slotted spoon and place it directly into the cream mixture. Stir gently to coat. If the cream begins to clump, add a little of the hot pasta cooking water. Let sit for 5 minutes and place in the muffin cups.
6. CREATE a small indentation in the center of each nest and sprinkle in the remaining cheese among the nests. Sprinkle the remaining sauce over the top, and add the pancetta bits around the rim.
7. BAKE the nests until they become golden and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove the muffin pan from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
8. CRACK a quail egg into each nest and bake for another minute. Once cooked, remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve garnished with the chopped olives.
1. COOK the ribbon pasta—angel hair/capellini, fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti—according to package directions, to al dente.
2. USE tongs to transfer a small amount of the pasta mixture into each muffin cup, forming a spiral as you place it. Arrange to form a nest shape. Do the same if you are cooking regular pasta ribbons, and need to form a nest in a bowl or on a plate.
*Sformatini also refers to other foods. In Tuscany, for example, it refers to a savory flan.