This pasta came to be a couple of weeks ago when there was “nothing for dinner,” which basically meant, I had nothing planned. All eyes were on me at 6pm with a look of desperation. But I had a lot of prosciutto on hand, fettuccine in the pantry, and a basil plant which keeps growing even though I frequently pick it to near-death. In times like these, I just try to think like an Italian… or at least how I think Italians must be thinking… Take delicious ingredients, and make something delicious with them with as little effort as possible. Just a few minutes later we had dinner. A really tasty dinner, but it was missing a bit of “zip!” So, I made a few notes-to-self, and the next time there was nothing for dinner, “Summer Night in Italy Pasta” was my go to recipe. Seriously though, cooking this pasta creates an aroma that evokes memories of walking down the bustling streets of Cagliari on a hot August night way back when… Maybe it’s the sautéed garlic and the unmistakable smell of torn basil leaves. Either way, it serves as a vacation for the tastebuds and makes for a happy family.
Summer Night in Italy Pasta
recipe by Stephanie Kunstle (inspired by bella Italia)
Notes: The key to success is to have all of your ingredients ready at the start. Cook the prosciutto/garlic mixture while the pasta is cooking. Have the tomatoes sliced and ready because the second the pasta is done cooking and drained, you will use the heat from the pasta to slightly cook the tomatoes, release the juices and absorb great flavor from the garlic-lemon oil. And a quick note on draining pasta: I try NOT to let all the cooking water drain off… Just pour the pasta into a colander to let the majority of the water drain off, and while the pasta is still pretty wet, add it to whatever you are cooking. Pasta cooking water has starch in it that lends a silkiness to the sauce, so totally dry pasta is not what you are going for.
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 12 oz. prosciutto (10-12 large slices), roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 4-5 lemon slices (1/4 inch thick or so)
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes (or 3-4 medium tomatoes in season), halved or quartered if large in size
- fleur de sel (or other good sea salt) to taste
- freshly cracked pepper
- 1 lb. fettuccine
- handful fresh basil leaves, torn
- Parmigiano Reggiano to grate over the pasta
- Heat a large pot of salted water and cook fettuccine to al dente. While the pasta is cooking…
- In a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add lemon slices and red pepper flakes and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the prosciutto and fry in the oil, using a fork to toss it and keep it from sticking together, for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic to the pan and sauté, stirring constantly, for one minute.
- Remove prosciutto mixture from heat.
- Place sliced tomatoes into a large serving bowl and season with fleur de sel or other sea salt, and just a touch of freshly cracked pepper.
- Drain pasta the minute it reaches an “al dente” doneness, and pour the hot pasta to cover the tomatoes. Do not toss. Allow to stand as is for a good minute or so. While it is standing, pour the prosciutto/garlic mixture over the top of the pasta, making sure you scrape out all the last bits of red pepper flakes and drops of olive oil onto the fettuccine.
- Toss the pasta and ingredients well, coating the fettuccine with the juices from the tomatoes and seasoned olive oil. Allow to cool for another minute or two, then add the basil and toss to combine.
- Serve with grated Parmigiano Reggiano and enjoy!