My personal Breakfast of Champions is a fried egg on a handful of raw greens – say arugula, dandelion, baby spinach, watercress or even mesclun – lightly dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper, maybe some snipped chives. It is a play on a classic rustic Italian dish: steamed asparagus with a fried egg and some grated Parmigiano. The operating principle is that when you break the soft-cooked yolk, it spills onto the vegetable like a sauce; vegetable and protein, marry, with little fuss, in a single delicious dish.
I love that idea so much that I tried putting a fried egg on all manner of cooked vegetables – roasted sliced onions or peppers, crushed boiled new potatoes, piles of sautéed escarole or wild mushrooms– until it seemed the natural course of things to throw a fried egg on a plate of spaghetti, which, when mixed with Parmigiano, simulated a Carbonara. It is the ultimate lazy person’s supper.
The idea of a breakfast version came from my belief in the energizing power of raw greens coupled with the need for an easily-made and delectable breakfast for myself when I’m moving fast. “Why not throw the fried egg on raw greens,” I wondered “and marry the asparagus-fried-egg gist and with the dandelion-salad-topped-with-a-soft cooked- quail-egg that appears on restaurant menus here and there?”
For me, it is a perfect breakfast, born of a formula that works for any meal, any time of day:
a savory base (cooked vegetables or pasta; if raw greens, dress them with extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper)
+ grated or shaved Parmigiano (grated for cooked stuff; on raw greens, use shaved or none at all)
+ a sunny side-up fried egg
Or, here’s a recipe for the most elaborate version of it. You can improvise upon it on endlessly; replace the pasta (and cooking water) with warmed leftover cooked vegetables, or some steamed asparagus or crushed potatoes….
Pasta with a Fried Egg and Parmigiano
To gild the lily, cook some diced bacon or pancetta, fry the eggs in the fat and toss the crispy pieces with the pasta. This recipe is easily scaled down to serve 1 or 2.
12 to 16 ounces (depending how hungry you are) of spaghetti, linguine or other
pasta 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
4 extra large eggs, preferably organic
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano
In a large pot of boiling, well-salted water, cook the spaghetti until it is slightly underdone (the pasta will keep cooking after its drained). With a measuring cup, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set the colander over a bowl while you start the eggs.
Carefully break the eggs into a bowl without breaking the yolks. Heat a 12-inch nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Add the butter or oil and swirl to coat. Add the eggs, gently nudging the yolks so they are evenly spaced in the pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny.
While the eggs are cooking, transfer the pasta to the cooking pot. Add about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and 6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano. Toss until the cheese has melted and the pasta is coated with a creamy sauce, adding more cooking water if necessary to keep the pasta moist. Season with salt and pepper generously. Divide the pasta evenly among 4 warm dinner plates. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining grated cheese.
Separate the eggs with a spatula and arrange a fried egg in the center of each mound of pasta. Scatter coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley over the top, if desired. Serve at once, instructing your guests to break the yolk and toss the egg with the pasta.