In less than two weeks, I’ll be leaving to spend a month in Italy. It sounds great: Italian food, architecture, and the satisfaction of knowing that I’m actually making some progress on my dissertation. I have to be honest, though – I’m not entirely excited. Spending that long in a city where you don’t know anyone is something less than fun, especially when you’re leaving behind these two little snuggle pups (and, of course, the man who’s helping me raise them).
But, in anticipation of my trip, I decided to make something authentically Italian. Something with sauce made from scratch, not from a jar. I discovered pasta panna e prosciutto four years ago (!) when I went to Italy for the first time, to study abroad. I was lucky enough to have a professor who was a serious foodie, and who in addition to sharing her own Italian recipes with us also took the group to a cooking class. We made gnocchi and tiramisu; I can still taste it… it was heavenly.
Unlike gnocchi from nothing, pasta panna e prosciutto is easy – but still amazingly tasty. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but in this dish I just can’t resist a little prosciutto (you know, the salty-sweet cured Italian ham).It’s so easy that I almost didn’t post it here, but after some Googling (it’s a verb, right?) I confirmed that there’s still not a good recipe for this on the English-speaking, non-metric internet… at least not that I’ve been able to find. So, here it is: pasta panna e prosciutto (roughly, pasta with cream and prosciutto).
Ingredients: (makes 2 dinner-sized portions)
2 servings (usually about 1 1/2 cups) pasta – I use ziti, but anything will work. I use gluten free pasta, but of course wheat-based pasta works too.
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup cream
1 teaspoon corn starch
salt and pepper to taste
3 slices (about 2 oz) prosciutto (cotto or crudo – if you just ask for prosciutto in an American deli, chances are you’ll get cotto… i.e. cooked)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (and please, for the love of Italian food, use the real thing!)
1. Boil water in a medium saucepan for your pasta. While the water is coming to a boil, slice your prosciutto into approximately 1/2 inch squares.
2. Now, add your pasta. While the pasta cooks, you can pan fry the prosciutto. Do this on medium-high heat, just long enough for it to start looking darker and a little crispy… but be careful not to overcook it, as prosciutto can take on a tough consistency if dried out.
3. After setting the cooked prosciutto aside, melt the butter in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk a small amount of cold water (about a tablespoon) with the corn starch. When well blended, at this and the cream to the melted butter. Add salt and pepper to taste – I generally use only a pinch of salt, but more pepper. Too much salt will cover up the milky taste that sets this apart from alfredo. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, then remove from heat so that it doesn’t get too thick.
4. Drain the pasta and top with panna sauce, prosciutto, and a little parmesan. Serve immediately.
Mmmm. Italian comfort food. One disclaimer: this isn’t a light dish, so take my word for it and don’t eat it an hour before you go to yoga class.
What do you think? What did you pair this with to round out your meal?