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September 26, 2020

Prosciutto, Parmesan and pasta | The Mixing Bowl

Butter, Parmesan cheese and crispy prosciutto—a rich and salty combo—would probably go well on cardboard, but definitely goes well with fresh pasta. Serve with a salad and this is an easy dinner for two. 

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This recipe is from a cookbook, “American Sfoglino,” written by Evan Funke, the chef and partner of the Felix Trattoria in Venice, Calif. He is very enthusiastic about making pasta completely by hand, so much so that I tried it myself after giving up many years ago. I should know by now to leave these things to the experts; it was too dry and rubbery—again.

Giorgio Franchetti, a food historian, reveals in his book, “Dining With the Ancient Romans,” that the Greeks and Romans ate pasta way before Marco Polo came back from Asia in the 1200s. 

“It’s pure nonsense,” he says. “The noodles that Marco Polo maybe brought back with him at the end of the 1200s from China were essentially made with rice and based on a different, oriental culinary tradition that has nothing to do with ours.”

Even though noodles and pasta developed separately, Italy and China share similar cooking styles. Preparing all the ingredients first, and then jumping into a fury of boiling and frying can be stressful and sometimes it’s hard to relax when it’s time to eat. A nice glass of white wine helps.

Pasta Tagliatelle with prosciutto and butter  

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2-3 ounces prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces

Kosher salt

Black pepper

3/4-pound fresh tagliatelle pasta, or 1/2-pound dried fettuccine

1/2-cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for serving

Tear prosciutto into bite-sized bits. Grate the cheese and have the fresh or dry pasta ready to cook. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Heat a frying pan that is large enough to hold all the cooked pasta and the prosciutto, over medium high heat. Add the butter and melt until it becomes frothy and golden in about 1 minute. When it is frothy, add half of the prosciutto in one layer. Cook until crisp in about 2-4 minutes. Transfer cooked prosciutto on to a paper towel. Cook the remaining prosciutto but when done, remove the pan from the burner and leave the rest of the prosciutto in the pan.

Season boiling water lightly with salt. When the salt dissolves, add the fresh tagliatelle and cook until “toothsome” and slightly undercooked for about 2-4 minutes or according to the package. Cook longer if you are using dried pasta. When done, do not drain the pasta.

Just before the pasta is ready, return the frying pan to the stove and heat the remaining cooked prosciutto over medium heat. Using a slotted pasta fork or tongs, transfer the pasta into the frying pan. Working quickly, add 1/2-cup of the cheese and 1/4-cup of pasta water. Swirl the pan vigorously and stir the pasta with a wooden spoon to thicken and combine the liquid and pasta. Sauce should become silky in about a minute. Pour the pasta into a large serving bowl, add the remaining prosciutto, grate some black pepper and serve with more Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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