Legends of Europe: Roasted Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto di Parma and Arugula

Parma Pasta tastefood

Roasted Cauliflower and Grape Tomatoes, Crispy Prosciutto di Parma, Arugula

For the second year in a row, I am involved in creating  a recipe for Legends from Europe with one of their authentic Italian products. This year they asked me to develop a recipe showcasing Prosciutto di Parma, and I was more than happy to oblige as prosciutto is a staple in my kitchen.

Prosciutto di Parma is the world-famous ham cured in the gently rolling countryside near Parma, Italy. Made from specially bred pigs born and raised according to strict guidelines, Parma Ham®  has a full-bodied, nutty and delicately sweet flavor. It’s free of additives and naturally air cured with sea salt. It’s delicious as is, wrapped around melon, draped over pizzas and salads or stuffed in sandwiches. For this recipe I decided to showcase the ham in a different way, using a method that’s become a fast family favorite: oven drying.

Oven drying the prosciutto is a quick technique, requiring a mere 20 minutes or so, during which the ham slices dry out and crisp, intensifying the meat’s flavor and saltiness. The slices are then snapped into shards, which may be served in any number of ways – either as a nibble with an apero, or sprinkled over soups, salads, eggs and vegetables or tossed into pasta as I’ve done in the following recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower and Tomato Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto di Parma and Arugula

Serves 4

1 small head of cauliflower, broken into bite-size florettes (about 3 cups)
8 ounces grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
6 ounces sliced Prosciutto di Parma
1 pound orecchiette pasta
2 cups arugula
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread the cauliflower and tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and red chili flakes. Stir to coat. Roast on the lowest oven rack until the cauliflower is tender and brown at edges and the tomatoes begin to collapse, 20 to 25 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, arrange prosciutto slices in one layer on another baking sheet. Place in the same oven on a middle rack and bake until dry and beginning to crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, break into shards.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the cauliflower and tomatoes and toss to combine. Add the arugula and cheese and toss again. Scatter the Prosciutto di Parma over the pasta and garnish with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

A Taste of Italy and a recipe for Montasio Frico

In the lead up to San Francisco’s Fancy Food Show, I was invited by Legends from Europe to a sneak preview and tasting of their products and a cooking demonstration by award winning chef, author, and restauranteur Joanne Weir. I needed no prodding to accept.

Legends from Europe is a 3 year campaign funded by the European Union and launched in the U.S. to increase awareness and celebrate “the legendary quality, tradition and taste” of five authentic PDO products (Protected Designation of Origin) from Europe: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grana Padano and Montasio. These happen to be 5 of my favorite products to cook with and to eat. I know them well from when I lived in Europe, and now that I live in the US, I continue to use them – either presented on a cheese and charcuterie board or integrated in a number of my recipes. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of rustic European cuisine, and each of these superior products bring a little taste of old world Europe to my California kitchen.

joanne weir

~ Joanne Weir presenting her  Montasio Frico ~

Not only am I a fan of Legends products, I am equally a fan of Joanne Weir, an award winning chef, author, television personality and chef-owner of the popular Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito. As an added treat for this event, Weir created 5 mouthwatering recipes with the Legends products including Endive with Prosciutto San Daniele and Gradano; Orecchiette with Cauliflower, Brown Butter and Parmigiano Reggiano; and a Fennel Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Shaved Grana Padano. My 2 favorites (which says a lot) were a Prosciutto di Parma wrapped Halibut on a bed of Spiced Lentils and a sinfully rich Montasio Frico – a crispy wafer-thin cheese and potato tart for which I would have no qualms to wrestle my children for the last bite. Finally, to complete the experience, each dish was perfectly paired with a wine selected by Elisabetta Fagioli representing Cantine Giacomo Montresor, a well known Italian wine producer in Verona Italy.

halibut prosciutto~ Prosciutto di Parma-Wrapped Halibut with Spiced Lentils and Arugula ~

Of the 5 products represented by Legends from Europe, Montasio is perhaps the least well-known. Montasio cheese is a firm cows milk cheese that ranges in color from ivory (fresh or young aged) to straw yellow (medium aged). Its origins  may be traced back to a 17th century mountain monastery in the Alps of Friuli Venezia Giulia in Northeastern Italy. The fresh cheese is mild and delicate in flavor while the aged cheese is firmer in body with more strength in flavor. Fresh Montasio cheese is used in making the Friulan cheese crisp known as frico.

Montasio Frico with Bacon and Potatoes – recipe courtesy of Joanne Weir

For a vegetarian option, omit the bacon.

2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup sliced and boiled potatoes
5 ounces Montasio cheese, shredded

Cook the bacon until golden in an 8-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour off all of the fat. Add the cheese and cook until the cheese is melted and the edges are golden brown. The frico should be firm enough that it moves in the pan. (You may have to use a spatula and shake the pan a little). Blot with paper towels if there is an excess of oil on the top.

Place the potatoes in a single layer on the cheese. Invert a plate onto the top and turn the pan and the plate. Slide the frico back into the pan. Continue to cook until the second side is golden and the inside is still a little soft. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint

This is my second recipe for Legends from Europe, using Prosciutto di San Daniele. These appetizer rolls are inspired by Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls, with a decided Italian twist. Prosciutto replaces the rice paper as the wrap, adding a salty savory component to the crunchy fresh vegetables and piquant Parmigano filling. No dip required: instead, olive oil, lemon and mint add flavor, aroma and a touch of moistness. You might want to double the batch, because these tend to get gobbled up before you can say Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Rolls with Arugula, Fennel and Mint
Makes 12

6 slices Prosciutto di San Danielle, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
Finely grated lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds trimmed, halved lengthwise, each half thinly sliced lengthwise
4 ounces Parmigiano cheese, shaved
1/2 cup mint leaves, torn in half if large

Place a slice of prosciutto on a work surface, short end closest to you. Lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of lemon zest and a little freshly ground black pepper. Arrange 6 to 8 arugula leaves at the base. Place a few slices of fennel and Parmigiano shavings over the arugula. Top with a few pieces of mint. Roll up from the base, tucking the prosciutto tightly around the vegetables. Continue to roll, placing 1 or 2 additional arugula leaves in the fold as you roll up. Place seam side down on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Legends of Europe: Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

My mission (should I choose to accept it):  To create an original recipe using Prosciutto di San Daniele from Legends from Europe. Legends from Europe is a 3 year campaign funded by the European Union and launched in the U.S. to increase awareness and celebrate “the legendary quality, tradition and taste” of five authentic PDO products (Protected Designation of Origin) from Europe: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reffiano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Grana Padano and Montasio.

As luck would have it, these 5 products happen to be some of my favorites. The biggest challenge I faced was not in accepting this mission but deciding which product to feature. Fortunately, the folks at Legends helped me with my choice and assigned me the Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto di San Daniele is named for the region of San Daniele in northeastern Italy where it enjoys a unique micro-climate nestled between the Dolomite Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The ham is left to slow-cure naturally, following a 2,000 year-old tradition introduced by the Celts. Today, Prosciutto di San Daniele is considered a delicacy  with its mild flavor and delicate texture. This week, I will be posting a few recipes I’ve created with Legends’ Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Prosciutto Figs with Goat Cheese and Rosemary

A small rosemary sprig does double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the figs and goat cheese with its flavor as they bake in the oven. Makes 16 hors-d’oeuvres

8 ripe figs
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices “Legends from Europe” Prosciutto di San Daniele, halved lengthwise
16 3/4-inch rosemary sprigs with stem, plus 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 375 F. Halve figs lengthwise. Place figs on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix goat cheese and pepper together in a small bowl. Fill the indentation with goat cheese, about 1/2 teaspoon. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around fig. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves. Place figs in a baking dish. Lightly brush prosciutto with olive oil. Bake in oven until prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer figs to a platter. Remove baked rosemary sprigs and discard (they will be brown). Replace with a few fresh rosemary leaves, without stem. Lightly drizzle figs with honey. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve warm.