Translation: Fettuccine with peas, ricotta, and prosciutto
Recipe: (as found on p. 98 of Williams-Sonoma’s “Rustic Italian”)
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small white onion, finely diced
- 2 cups fresh or thawed peas
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 lb dried fettuccine
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh sheep’s milk ricotta or well-drained cow’s milk ricotta, at room temperature
- 4 thin slices of prosciutto di Parma, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Growing up, my parent’s had a wonderful group of friends. I have memories of picnics by a southern lake, roaring holiday soirees, dinner parties where the number of children matched the number of adults, and get-togethers that ran long into the night… Like I said, they were a wonderful group.
Looking back, as a young girl, I remember one of my mother’s friends would always fix me a special pasta dinner, particularly around the holidays. I knew it only as “Patti’s Pasta,” and I requested it by name often. It included fettuccine, peas, bacon, and a cream sauce, and I loved it. So, when I came across this recipe for Fettuccine con Piselli e Prosciutto, I was instantly transported back to those memories. That is, perhaps, one of my favorite magical abilities food possesses; the ability to rekindle.
This rendition is a bit more elevated than Patti’s version, but one that still holds the talent to transport.
In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, and the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add the peas, stir to coat thoroughly with the fat, and cook until just tender and no longer raw-tasting, about 7 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a generous grinding of pepper, and the lemon zest and remove from the heat. Cover the sauce to keep warm and set aside.
Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes or according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup. Transfer the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss gently to combine. Add a splash or two of the pasta-cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed.
Add the ricotta and prosciutto and toss gently to mix. Finally, add the Parmigiano and toss gently again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Divid among 4 shallow bowls and serve.
I loved how easy and straight forward this recipe was, and I loved the addition of the lemon zest. It gave this, otherwise heavy dish, a bright burst. In fact, I loved the addition of the lemon flavor so much that I squeezed the juice of 1/2 lemon over the pasta prior to the addition of the Parmigiano. In so doing, it loosened up the pasta and other ingredients quite nicely.
In addition, I love when a recipe teaches me something new in regards to technique. Prior to this recipe, when cooking pasta, I had always boiled the water, added the pasta, and then reduced the water to a medium-high heat. Because of this, I felt as if I was constantly baby-sitting the pasta so it didn’t get too soft. This time, I boiled the water, added the pasta, and cooked the pasta while the water continued to boil (for 12 minutes), and the pasta came out to the perfect al dente.
What DIDN’T Work:
Two things, and truthfully they were both on me.
1) Pay attention when a recipe calls for something to be “room-temperature,” it is important. In my case, my ricotta was chilled which did not allow for it to spread smoothly when added to the peas, onions, prosciutto, and pasta. And thus, I was “forced” 😉 to add more in order to coat the pasta evenly.
2) I OVER estimated what I thought the salt content of this dish would be, and thus I under seasoned. Between the salted water, ricotta, and prosciutto, I assumed the salt content would be high and so I was light handed when using salt and pepper to taste. Do not do this, this is a dish that relies on its seasoning.
The recipe calls for the prosciutto to be sliced into thin strips. Perhaps someone’s Nonna is about to roll in their grave for how I handled the prosciutto, but I personally found it impossible to slice the Prosciutto accordingly, and therefore I simply just ripped it into small pieces, added it to the pasta, and it worked just fine. Sorry Nonna…