Is anybody still out there? I hope so.
I’m so sorry for my exceedingly long absence from blogging. I truly, truly feel awful about it, and I’m so happy and relieved to finally get something up. As many of you know, I’ve been sick for some time, and it’s been extremely difficult to pull off even the most mundane tasks.
Since last June, for about 5 months, I could barely write, much less peel a carrot. I was able to get in a paragraph or two maybe once a month and that was what I called a good month. Around January, I felt a little better so I started writing a little more, and now I’m here. For how long, I don’t know, but I’m here.
Naturally, I couldn’t put this “Hi, I’m back!” post up without a recipe, since it is a food blog. but much to my disappointment, I couldn’t play outside the box, which is what I enjoy most about cooking and baking. So, I had to choose something basic and simple, but basic and simple doesn’t make it any less amazing. In fact, it usually makes it more amazing and difficult because every single facet must be spot on, and every ingredient top notch, since there are no extraneous components and preparations to hide behind.
This recipe is a derivative of an alfredo sauce I make via cutting down the cream and adding tomatoes. But, I shouldn’t refer to my favorite alfredo sauce as alfredo because true alfredo does not contain even a speck of cream. To digress somewhat, authentic alfredo is a remarkably creamy amalgam of just butter, parmesan cheese and pasta water, and, when done right, it’s actually better than alfredo made with cream. I know, shocking, but it makes up for it with twice the butter!
SO, I would have much rather posted one of the amazing cakes, pastries or breads that have been blistering my brain for 8 months running, but due to my current circumstances, those ideas can’t be fully executed yet. I miss playing with batters, dough, fillings and frosting, so much so, it literally breaks my heart to tears. Not being able to cook or bake feels like someone brutally ripped a pacifier from my mouth and won’t give it back.
On another note, I forgot how awful it is not having enough natural light to take photos in. Heavy duty bummer moment when I uploaded these photos, especially after months of pinning other blogger’s gorgeous, naturally lit photos. Why did I think it would be any different this time? Well, I’m mostly to blame because I let my tower of pasta sit too long before snapping away, and since we eat what I make and post about, this tower of pasta was the last serving – no back up. But trust me, it’s a lot more luscious and creamy than it looks in the photos. Time, air and artificial lighting are not a friend to saucy pasta photos.
I just realized something. I sound totally pathetic. Please excuse the whining and let’s focus on this amazing pasta dish!
I attempted to build a linguine tower with a fork and tongs. Obviously, it didn’t work out too well. With natural light, it would have looked magnificent just dumped on a plate. Without it, you need to get creative.
So, now that I’m done waxing kvetchic, I want to share with you one of my favorite and most requested pasta dishes. If you don’t like prosciutto and/or peas, of course you can eliminate them. This sauce is perfection on its own.
- 1 pound linguine (any other pasta is fine and fresh is ideal since sauces cling better to fresh pasta)
- kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 1 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with liquid
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- red hot pepper flakes (optional, the amount depending on how hot you like it)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1½ cups fresh or frozen peas
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ lb sliced prosciutto (taste it before buying, you don't want it too salty)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)
- In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water plus a generous pinch plus plus of kosher salt to a boil (about 1 tablespoon per 2 quarts water, so 3 tablespoons in this case). Taste the water, it should be salty like the ocean.
- While waiting for the water to boil, pour the can of tomatoes with juice into the work bowl of a food processor. DO NOT turn on the processor at full speed because you will end up with pink foam. Just pulse until you have a smooth puree.
- Over medium heat, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep pan or skillet. Add the chopped garlic and chopped shallot to the oil. Saute until soft and translucent, then slowly pour in the pureed tomatoes and their juice. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, seasoning it with salt and pepper to taste as it simmers (go easy on the salt because of the cheese that will be added). If you're using the red hot pepper flakes, add them now. Simmer until it reduces a bit about 10 to 15 minutes tops.
- While the tomato sauce simmers, add the linguine to the boiling pot of water and cook until al dente (about 6 to 8 minutes, keep checking by biting into a strand). In the mean time, once the sauce has simmered for 10-15 minutes, stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the peas and let them cook for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on their size (fresh peas are bigger). Slowly pour the cream into the sauce, swirling the pan and stirring, then add the sliced prosciutto, stirring to distribute it evenly.
- Immediately drain the linguine, pouring some of the pasta water into a cup in case you need to thin the sauce once the cheese is added. If your pan or skillet is big enough, dump all the linguine right into the sauce and toss, adding all the parmigiano-reggiano cheese at once and tossing over the heat until it coats the linguine. If your skillet or pan isn't big enough, dump the pasta into a large bowl and pour the sauce and cheese on top of it, tossing until all the pasta is coated.
- If the sauce is too thick once tossed with the linguine, thin it out with some of the reserved pasta water.
- Top with the chopped parsley (if using), some extra fresh ground pepper, and serve immediately, passing extra Parmigiano-Reggiano or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.