June 4, 2008

The Queen of Italian Chic

I love Giada De Laurentiis. I mean this girl is just adorable and completely relatable - so much so, that I sometimes forget that we aren't actually friends! She also has this uncanny ability to make beautiful food appear effortless and is constantly convincing me to attempt one of her many recipes. I've had my ups and downs with some of these recipes though, as they are not necessarily as effortless as she makes them seem (or at least not to a total beginner like myself). But try and try again we must, and so that is just what I did with this "easy" pasta dish.

This one lures you in with promises of salty prosciutto, bright green asparagus and melty mozzarella - yum! This meal is chic and almost "light" feeling, even if it is a hearty pasta dish. I just added a small side salad and a bottle of wine, and presto, I'm a chic Italian cook as well! At least that's what I'll keep telling myself... ;)

In my limited ventures into the cooking world, I have found the most complicated part of the whole thing is getting timing right and being prepared for the next step. I took this to heart in this dish and did all kinds of chopping and prepping before I even turned on the heat to boil the pasta water. No, this is not the most time efficient way to accomplish a meal, but it works for me and I could spend all of my time concentrating on not overcooking the pasta instead of rushing to chop the meat (the time they a lot for chopping is never enough for someone with little to no knife skills). So that's the way I'm going to lay it out in the instructions below. But please feel free speedy choppers, to chop away while your pasta is cooking as I'm sure that there is ample time for someone with a bit more skill.

You might also want to accidentally "drop" some of your choppings to any little helpers waiting nearby...

** My mozzarella tended to clump together into big cheesy bits...but not in a good way. Below I've added the mozzarella once the dish is off the heat as I think that will help from getting overwhelmed with cheese globs.

2 pounds asparagus (my asparagus came in "a bunch" and this seemed like a fine amount, but I have no idea if it was 2 pounds)
3/4 pound spaghetti
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (my meat came by the pound, so to help anyone else out: 1 pound = 16 ounces)
6 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese
6 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

  • Trim the asparagus by holding both ends of one spear in each hand and snapping in two. The spear will break right at the point where you should be trimming (i.e. the end part that you don't want to eat will now be removed). For that point, line all the other spears up and cut them at roughly the same spot.
  • Crush and mince all 4 garlic cloves.
  • Slice the prosciutto into thin strips.
  • Dice the mozzarella.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt to the water. Add asparagus and cook for 2 to 3 minutes then remove from the water and place in a bowl filled with ice water. You want the asparagus to still be firm when it comes out - no one likes mushy asparagus!
  • When the asparagus has cooled down in the ice bath, proceed to cutting it up into 1-inch pieces.
  • Make sure your water is still boiling and add the pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes. When time is nearing an end, begin checking your pasta for doneness as you want it to still have a bit of a bite to it and not be overcooked.
  • When the pasta has only a minute or so left to cook, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for about half a minute. Add the chopped asparagus and salt and pepper.
  • Add the pasta and combine well. You can add to the pan a ladle or so of the remaining pasta water if the dish seems a bit dry. The pasta water will help to create a bit of a sauce.
  • Add sliced prosciutto.
  • Chop up the basil and garnish the top, then remove from heat. Add chopped mozzarella and toss to combine.
  • Add more salt and pepper if need be.
  • Open good (or cheap) bottle of crisp white wine and enjoy!

No comments: