Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Springtime Pasta With Peas, Asparagus and Prosciutto

A while back, I subscribed to the daily (weekly?) emails sent out by Epicurious.com. I figured I might be able to find a couple of good recipes in there -- Epicurious has worked wonders for me in the past -- but none of the recipes in the emails had really appealed to me before.

But today, I happened across a recipe for which I had most of the ingredients already purchased and in my fridge. And it was made of fancy schmancy stuff, too, like shallots. (Whoa.)

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I dropped by the grocery and picked up the two things I was missing: spring onions and prosciutto. I'd seen dishes like this before, featured in springtime recipes, but I'd never taken the plunge and actually made the dish.

Mostly because salted cured meats are somewhat unnerving. (Don't you think?) And also because I didn't think I'd be able to pick prosciutto out of a deli lineup. (Lucky for me, they label things pretty well these days. And look! Its good until.... September? I told you cured meats were scary...)

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I'd like to tell you that I made this recipe because it looked fresh and seasonal and delicious, but really, I made it mostly because I am completely addicted to Enormo-Skillet and I wanted to make another one-skillet dish in it. I am incorrigible.

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The recipe called for 1/2 cup dry white wine, and (given that we're doing this whole Cucina Povera thing lately), I really didn't want to shell out ten or twelve bucks for a whole bottle of wine just for one or two recipes. I considered substituting chicken broth for the wine, but then I happened across a three dollar ($3) bottle of white wine! Obviously its probably not the finest vintage or anything, but three dollars was quite comfortably within the Recession Dinner Budget. (I mean, that's cheaper than just buying grapes right now...)

In trying out this dish, I also learned that prosciutto is rather difficult to "cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips." It all sticks together...

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My only complaint would be that the recipe requires you to use the same water to cook the asparagus and peas and then to boil the pasta. Which means you can't do it all simultaneously. (The multitasker in me did not like this one bit.)

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Once it all started coming together, it was a big delicious-looking mess of green. So springtime-y and fresh and yum!

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And of course, the bellweather for all cooking in our household: Did Steven like it?

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He asked for seconds. (Yessss.)

Springtime Pasta With Peas, Asparagus and Prosciutto
Adapted from Epicurious.com, and it appears they took it from the April 2009 issue of Bon Appetit. (I basically halved the recipe and managed to use the wrong lettuce. It is otherwise unchanged.)

From the recipe: "Using campanelle or medium shell pasta is key here: The pasta catches all of the little ingredients, like the sweet green peas and the salty prosciutto."

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
4 spring onions or green onions (dark green parts discarded); white parts cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 small minced shallot
Coarse kosher salt (Used my new sea salt grinder!)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 pound asparagus, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces
1 small bag of frozen peas (I used Steamfresh)
Half a box of shell-shaped pasta
A few leaves of butter lettuce or Boston lettuce, cut into 3/4-inch-wide slices
A large handful of grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (Oops I forgot to put in any parsley. Ha. Just now realizing this...)
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips

A Note About The Lettuce: I used iceberg, which I would not recommend using - it got gross after wilting. Baby spinach would have been really delicious, though. Wish I'd thought of that earlier... Hurry up garden!

Melt butter with 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallot. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.

Cook asparagus in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to large bowl of ice water. Return water to boil. Add peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using skimmer, transfer to bowl with asparagus. Drain vegetables. Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add lettuce and stir just until wilted, about 1 minute. Add drained asparagus and peas; stir until heated through. Add pasta, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, and parsley to skillet with vegetables; toss, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle prosciutto over; drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside, and celebrate Spring!