Weeknight Cooking – Angel Hair Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto & Lemon

Bon Appetit, and other magazines of it’s ilk are, let’s face it, the food-lover’s Playboy. Sure, we say that we’re buying it for the articles, but what we’re mostly looking at are the recipes.

Ooh, baby, you look good al dente! And that garnish is hot.

The articles are somewhat interesting and, if I become rich and famous and have the option of traveling to some obscure corner of the world to try an indigenous dish, the articles would be pertinent to me. I’ve tried to get through some of them, and all they make me do is wish I had the money to travel. They are also broken up by small booklets of advertisements, which makes it hard to follow anything. Even a small, two-page article on the top three “must have” baking utensils (half page of text on each page, with the rest of the page being filled up by large, pointless photographs of the aforementioned utensils) cannot be placed together. No, the article must be separated by three pages of ads, leaving the reader to flip around until you can find page 127, wherever it may be.

This pretty much sums up my love/hate relationship with Bon Appetit: Great recipes and decent articles, once you can actually wade through a Superbowl-sized mess of advertisements. It is because of the latter that I let my subscription lapse a few years ago.

I’ve kept my old magazines though, and every so often will sift through them to find a new dinner menu. One section in particular that I have fallen for is often located at the end of the magazine (that is, if you can find it), called “Too Busy to Cook”. The recipes listed there are supposedly quick dishes, all submitted by Bon Appetit readers. From this section, I have found a few great loves. One of them is the following dish that I wish to share.

It is by far the fastest recipe in my arsenal, and a surprise to eat because of the lightness. A couple of weeks ago I recommended this dish to Citizen Chef, who ate the whole thing. Whether he loved it or was just hungry is something he will have to clarify later.

The first time I made the dish there was far too much lemon, so the following is my slightly altered recipe. If you love a lot of lemon, increase the juice to 4 teaspoons. I found that to be way too much, and cut it in half with great results. Another note is that I always use fresh lemon juice. I tried it with bottled just so I could compare, it and the flavor was clearly not as bright. There are not a lot of components here and very little seasonings to mask cheaper ingredients, so go to the store and buy a $0.40 lemon. The addition of the lemon zest gives it a great taste and makes a beautiful presentation.

Angel Hair Pasta with Peas, Prosciutto & Lemon
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen petite peas
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese

Keep in mind that angel hair pasta only has to cook for 4 minutes, so this is all going to be really fast. In fact, I overcooked the dish a bit because I was trying to get pictures of everything.

For the pasta, start heating up a pot of salted water on the stove and start cutting up your prosciutto. Make sure you have a good knife, otherwise it’s going to feel like a chore.

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Sorry for the blurry picture – the dish goes fast, and I was in a hurry to get this done in time for the next step. Hey, I am decent at cooking. I never said anything about being a good photographer!

When the water is boiling, add your pasta and set the timer so you don’t overcook it.

In a frying pan over medium heat, pour in your whipping cream and some grated lemon peel.

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Let this simmer until the cream reduces slightly, about 1 minute. Add the peas, prosciutto, lemon juice and wine – all of it at once. Simmer 2 minutes.

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At this point, your pasta should be about done. Drain the spaghetti, but keep 2/3 cup of the salted spaghetti water aside. Add the spaghetti to the cream/prosciutto mixture. Add Romano. Toss, mixing to coat. If the pasta dish is too dry (and it may be, depending on how much liquid the cheese soaks up) add a little of the salted spaghetti water and toss.

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As you can see, I cooked it just a little too long. Two reasons for that: First is because some of the sensitive eaters in my house insist on having the alcohol cooked out, and second is because I was trying to take a decent picture. So, try to keep the cooking time of the prosciutto and peas mixture as close to 2 – 3 minutes as you possibly can. It still tastes delicious, even when it’s overcooked, but the textures are going to be different – the prosciutto will not be exactly the way you want it, and the peas won’t be crisp. As long as you have everything prepared before you get started, it won’t be an issue, even for the novice chef.

Serve with bread and a glass of wine. Enjoy!

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