Tag Archives: pasta recipes

Recipe: Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas

You know you’re old when you’ve been making a recipe for literally 20 years, but that’s when this recipe dates from – the ’90s heyday of the Silver Palate cookbooks. It’s so simple, so fast and so good, and I always return to it in spring. As with all Italian recipes, the quality of the ingredients is key. It’s important to get the best quality prosciutto you can find, prosciutto di Parma or prosciutto San Daniele. Same with the cream, butter and pasta. The original recipe calls for capellini (or “angel hair pasta” in ’90s speak), but I found that pasta to be too fine for the rich sauce, so I use spaghetti. Other variations from the original Silver Palate recipe: I leave out the flour, which can make the sauce gummy, and sneak in a smashed garlic clove for extra depth. (more…)

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The Copycat Chef: Penne with Ricotta and Pancetta

Down the street from me in Milan was a little neighborhood trattoria, La Ragazza, that served the most delicious pasta. The rich pancetta and tomato sauce in their signature penne dish included lots of creamy, fresh ricotta – a combination you don’t see often stateside. The only problem was, when I returned from Milan, La Ragazza was no longer down the street from me, and I was still craving their house specialty. So I set to Googling, and found the traditional recipe from an Italian pasta blog, Pasta Recipes Made Easy. Success! Here it is re-envisioned with American measurements and a few pasta-making tricks of my own.

La Ragazza’s penne is housemade and dried. If you can’t find this at a specialty pastaria near you (there are many more in Italy than here), use artisanal-quality packaged pasta.  (more…)

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The Babbo Cookbook: Oxtail Ragu

I must have bought The Babbo Cookbook as soon as it came out nine years ago, but it included so many recipes that were nearly impossible to make until now. Remember when guanciale wasn’t exactly a household word? Oft-mentioned ingredients like boar sausage, beef cheeks and calf’s brains may still not be available at your local Gristede’s, but now Eataly’s butcher counter sells oxtail meat. (more…)

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Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

There are so many different varieties of mushrooms arriving at the market right now, like these at Dean & Deluca, below, that it’s hard to choose just one. How can you settle for just cremini when chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, and hen o woods are right nearby? Usually the answer comes down to price: the fanciest mushrooms can cost $45 a pound, so many cooks stick to the basics. But keep in mind that just an ounce of mushrooms can go a long way flavor-wise, so cooking with exotic mushrooms can be done with little pain to your wallet. Just use a higher proportion of less-expensive mushrooms (cremini) and a smaller proportion of the pricier ones (chanterelles).


One of the best recipes that uses wild mushrooms is one by Melissa Clark for the Times in the spring of 2007, for creamed morels on toast. But what about fall, when morels aren’t in season? All the mushrooms I found at Dean & Deluca would be excellent with cream and white wine on toast, but I wanted to feature them in a main dish. The creamed mushrooms became an unorthodox French pasta sauce served on linguine – though for a really stellar effect, serve the mushroom sauce over fresh, homemade fettuccine. (more…)

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German Jazz Guitarist Pasta

Reading Mark Bittman’s article about pasta in the Times today, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a German jazz guitarist I knew years ago. This was no ordinary German jazz guitarist, but a half Italian German jazz guitarist and who made a mean penne arrabiata chock full of vegetables. He and his cousin Fabio, also a jazz guitarist, lived in Dumbo in an old gun factory that had been (illegally) converted into loft apartments.

Pasta was one of their favorite things to make, particularly since the gun factory was only heated from 9-5 on weekdays, and eating hot pasta was one way to stay warm. It was the German jazz guitarist who taught me that you must put an entire handful of salt into the pasta water. He also insisted on Pomi tomatoes, since they contain none of citric acid that can make canned tomatoes sour. Like the recent immigrants mentioned in Bittman’s article, they too were overjoyed by the bounty of food available in America. They bought lots of cheap vegetables at the local Korean deli and shoplifted the expensive Parmesan.

The resulting pasta dish was just as filling as it was nutritious. And the cheese on top? For us, it was worth the risk.

German Jazz Guitarist Pasta

1 clove garlic
1 zucchini
½ yellow onion
5 oz. white mushrooms
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste (look for the kind in the tube)
1 tsp drained capers
Red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
1/4 lb. penne
Parmesan cheese

Put a handful of kosher salt in an 8-quart pot of water and bring it to boil.

While waiting for water to boil, mince the garlic. Cut zucchini on a diagonal. Slice onion in wedges lengthwise. Slice mushrooms. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add garlic, stir a few times, then add the rest of the vegetables. Saute, stirring constantly, until the zucchini just begins to get transparent in the center. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, capers, two dashes of oregano, one dash of red pepper flakes. Heat on high until it bubbles, then keep on a low simmer, uncovered. By now the pasta water should be boiling; add penne and cook.

Reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain penne while still al dente. Check the sauce’s seasonings and salt to taste. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if sauce is too thick. Finish cooking the penne in the sauce. Raise the heat and stir constantly until some of the sauce is absorbed.

Serve topped with a generous amount of freshly grated, legally acquired Parmesan.

Serves 2 jazz guitarists.

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Sunday Ragu


Every winter I like to make a huge vat of meat sauce and freeze it in small portions for the bleak months ahead. Though I am not copying any particular restaurant version here, the recipe is derived from Regina Schrambling’s nearly perfect recipe for lasagna that appeared in the Times years ago. The lasagna was great, but I was floored by the sauce. I tweaked it to make it more Italian-American than authentic Italian – more tomato, more oregano, less meat. Even a dash of garlic salt at the end, though yes, I know that is cheating.  (more…)

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