Sunday, June 15, 2008

Easy Spring Pasta

This is easy food. Easy in the shopping, easy in the cooking and easy in the eating, which, as we approach Cooking With Infants time, seems even more important than usual. But this one's actually fairly healthy, tasty and cheap too. Win win win win. Serves two or two and a half.

nine ounces cheese tortellini (fresh-ish, from the refrigerated section)
ten ounces frozen peas (get the good tiny sweet kind—not the giant starchy ones)
1/2 cup chopped ham (or more)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint (or more)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
grated parmigiano

Cook the tortellini like the package tells you to.
Saute the garlic and ham until the garlic softens and smells good.
Add the frozen peas to the ham and garlic and cook, covered, until peas are hot.
Combine the tortellini, ham mixture, ground pepper, and a big pat of butter.
Add mint and a generous amount of cheese to each serving.

The first time I made this, I used orrechiette and prosciutto instead of tortellini and ham, and it was good too, and more sophisticated-seeming. To make sure the end result wasn't too dry, I tried a flashy new move (new to me, anyway):
Cook the pasta in well-salted water. Save a half cup of the liquid, and drain the pasta before it's quite done. Dump the pasta back into the hot pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the saved water, a bunch of grated parmigiano, tons of ground pepper, and a big hunk of butter. Stir energetically. The starchy, salty water will mix with the cheese and butter, making a flavorful, emulsified juice. The pasta absorbs enough liquid from the sauce that it finishes cooking in a few minutes. Once the pasta's done, add the (still warm) prosciutto and peas. The sauce will lightly coat everything, distribute the flavors, and keep the whole thing from being dry and gummy. So, a good technique if you have the time and inclination, but eminently skippable if you just use cheese tortellini and some butter.

No comments: