Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Pasta

Today, after watching some of my favorite Food Network shows including Giada At Home, Nigella Kitchen and Alex's Day Off, I was inspired to cook.  Normally I would harness this energy to make our Sunday night dinner, but because we are heading to our neighbors' wedding and reception in a few hours, I made a very nice lunch for us instead.

I still had cream and prosciutto left over from last Sunday's Pasta Primavera, which inspired an idea: Fettuccine alla Carbonara.  I consulted my BHG New Cookbook and made a few changes and additions.  The result was warm, inviting and delicious.  I hope you try it and enjoy some Sunday afternoon, or anytime!

Penne alla Carbonara, adapted from BHG New Cookbook

3 slices prosciutto, cut into 1 inch strips
 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup frozen peas
4 cups penne pasta, or whatever you have on hand
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup half and half or heavy cream--I had cream on hand from last week's recipe so I used that
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Coarsely ground black pepper

Kitchen Supplies:
Pasta pot
Small saucepan

Put a pot of water onto boil.  In a small saucepan, saute prosciutto and olive oil over medium heat until the prosciutto turns crispy and golden brown.  Remove prosciutto from pan and set aside.  Add onions and saute in the brown bits from the prosciutto for 1 to 2 minutes until translucent.  Remove from pan.  Salt pasta water and add pasta.  When six minutes remain in cooking time for the pasta (our Penne took 11 minutes) add the butter and allow to melt slightly.  Add cream and egg, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the consistency is such that the sauce just coats a metal spoon.  Strain pasta, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Add peas to the strainer you used for the pasta.  Run cool water over them briefly to remove any frost and take the chill off the peas.  Return pasta to the pot, then add sauce, Parmesan, peas, onions and prosciutto.  Toss and if the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen.  Serve with pepper to taste. 

The original recipe called for bacon which you browned up in a separate pan.  When reading it over, I realized I could use one saucepan (less cleanup) and take advantage of the brown bits at the bottom of the pan in the rest of the recipe (more flavor).  It was totally worth it.  Hints of the salty, smokiness of the prosciutto were in every part of the dish, including the creamy sauce.

Traditional Carbonara is served with fettucine, but thanks to our Sam's Club membership, we always have several pounds of Penne on hand, so that's what I used.  The small lines on Penne actually worked quite well with this dish, as the creamy sauce really clung to the pasta.

I also added onions and peas, because to me, Carbonara is not the same without them!  Enjoy!

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