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.

Spring Pasta: Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

Spring Pasta: Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots

I couldn’t resist the peas. This bowl of pasta is the essence of early spring, a season which brings a conflicting message of cold rain with gentle sunshine. Crispy pancetta swathed in cream and cheese provides winter warmth, while sweet peas and delicate pea tendrils add earthy fragility, an early hint from a garden awakening from its winter slumber. No worries if you can’t get your hands on pea tendrils, which are the wispy shoots of the snow pea plant. This dish is equally delicious simply with pancetta and peas. And for that matter, if you can’t get your hands on fresh peas, then frozen are just fine, too.

Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots
Serves 4

1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add orecchiette and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta. Sauté until colored and lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add fresh peas (if using), garlic and red chili flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Return pancetta to the pan. Add cream, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer until cream is slightly reduced and thickened, and peas are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. (If using defrosted frozen peas, add to the cream after it is reduced and thickened and simmer until peas are heated through). Remove from heat and add the orecchiette to the skillet.  Stir to combine. Add the pea shoots, half of the cheese and mint and stir again. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.