Lately, I’ve become weary of the food police, a term coined by Julia Child for those focused on the questionable health benefits of her beloved butter and cream. Today it seems like the “food police” are everywhere. Newspapers and magazines, online features (especially those that list the top 10 worst ingredients you can consume!), national radio and TV broadcasts–all routinely offer up some new food that is verboten. “Keep fat to a minimum, give up evil carbs, lower your salt, only eat meat occasionally.” I listen, and dutifully adjust my recipes to follow the guidelines. Every so often, though, I throw caution out (much to my husband’s delight) to prepare, guilt-free, an indulgence like Rigatoni with Parmesan Cream, Prosciutto, and Arugula.
Here is a dish that I first tasted in a small neighborhood bistro in Paris. From my first bite I was smitten, not only by the delicious combination of tastes and textures, but also by the creation’s sheer simplicity. Rigatoni, cooked al dente, were tossed in a smooth-as-silk sauce that had been prepared with equal amounts of milk, crème fraîche, and grated Parmesan along with a hint of fresh nutmeg. The pasta, garnished with a small mound of arugula dressed in lemon juice and a sprinkle of julienned Serrano ham, was served in shallow bowls.
At home, I reproduced the recipe by substituting prosciutto for Serrano (the latter was hard to find in my markets). The results were just as delicious on this side of the ocean. The crème fraîche with its tart accent, the cheese and prosciutto with their salty notes, and the citrus-scented greens worked beautifully as an ensemble. This all-in-one dish serves four with substantial portions, and five more modestly. Offer it on a cool fall day when you too are ready to be a little less vigilant!
Rigatoni with Parmesan Cream, Prosciutto, and Arugula
1 tbsp olive oil
3 oz thin (but not paper thin) sliced prosciutto, cut into strips about wide 1/4 in wide and 3-in long
1 1b rigatoni
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup crème fraîche
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 tsp cold water
Generous 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups arugula
3 to 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add the prosciutto strips and sauté, stirring often, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes or more. Remove and drain the strips on paper towels.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta and 1 tbsp salt. Cook according to package directions.
3. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the Parmesan Cream. Whisk the milk and crème fraîche together in a medium, heavy saucepan. Set pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Gradually whisk in the Parmesan cheese. Then whisk in the cornstarch mixture and continue to whisk until mixture thickens more and coats the back of a spoon well, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the sauce with 1/2 tsp salt, the nutmeg, and several grinds of pepper. Cover and keep warm.
4.When the pasta is tender to the bite (al dente), drain in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Add the Parmesan Cream and stir to coat well. Season with more salt and nutmeg if needed. Spoon the pasta into 4 to 5 shallow bowls. In a medium bowl toss the arugula with enough lemon juice to coat lightly. Place a small mound in the center of each pasta serving. Sprinkle the crispy prosciutto over the pasta. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 5.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014