Photo: SMarina (Shutterstock)
Pastas have been used in desserts for some time now, like sweet lokshen kugel or white chocolate orzo pudding, but I confess, I’ve been missing out. All this time, my boxes of macaroni have only been treated to savory dressings, vegetables, and meats. I’ve been cooking with one noodle tied behind my back. Pasta is a blank canvas ingredient, like rice or bread, that provides structure and chew to any flavors you throw at it, including the sweet stuff.
Dessert pastas range from small, casual, crispy pasta snacks to full-fledged dessert casseroles. You can fry fresh pasta to make crispy vessels for dipping into sweet sauces, or simply toss them in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Leftover boiled pasta can be tossed with a sweet ricotta cheese, or a rich custard base for a creamy baked casserole. Perhaps a touch of the elegant is more your style? Drizzle a creamy, sweet sauce over penne and orange segments for a sweet pasta soup. For a sliceable dessert, make a classic pasta cake with tagliatelle, citrus, and ground almonds.
Pasta puddings and casseroles
For those embarking on a pasta pud for the first time, I recommend keeping it simple. Similarly to testing out your first rice pudding, you might think the textural contrast and flavor combination of pasta and a custard base is pretty sus, but give it a chance to impress you. Desserts made with boiled noodles add texture and bounce while highlighting the sweet, rich, and aromatic fillings. For a touch of familiarity, try a dessert mac and cheese. Mix in fruit, and top with chopped nuts before baking.
Fried pastas display an unexpected, but entirely appealing, airy crunch. Boil fresh or dry pasta first, to hydrate it. (To give the noodles a subtle, sweet boost, add sugar to the boiling water.) Drain the pasta and let all of the excess water dry off. Give the pasta a dab with a paper towel or toss it in a salad spinner to ensure there isn’t any water pooling in the noodles, which will splatter when it hits the hot oil. Add the prepared pasta to oil that’s heater to 350°F-375°F, and deep fry until lightly golden. Most pasta shapes are rather thin, so remove them when they take on a light color, as the carry-over cooking will continue to brown them slightly. Toss the crispy pasta in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or a cinnamon sugar mixture.
Filled cocoa pasta shells
Part of the fun of pasta is enjoying their many delightful shapes, and shells are fantastic. Make a saccharine spin on stuffed shells and simply swap out the savory sauce and filling for something sweet. Boil medium or large shells in water as usual, or add a spoonful of sugar to the boiling water. Drain, and allow the excess water droplets to evaporate until the shells are tacky but have no visible standing droplets. Toss the shells thoroughly in cocoa powder and tap out the excess. Line them up on a dish so the openings are face-up. It’s alright if they lean this way or that. Using a small spoon or a piping bag, fill each shell with soft ganache, cannoli filling, or simple sweetened cream cheese. Top them with chopped pistachios, candied orange peel, shredded coconut, or enjoy them as-is alongside a steamy espresso.