Some nights you just can’t get it together at dinner time and so you end up eating the same old standby meal. We were dangerously close to that fate on a recent Friday night. It had been a long week and a long day and we were desperately behind on our grocery shopping, so the cupboards were looking a little bare. As I walked home from work through the lovely Gramercy neighborhood, I tried to talk myself into a trip to Fairway, but my weekend brain wasn’t having it. Luckily, one of our favorite places, the Bedford Cheese Shop is on my way home. We might not have an actual dinner plan, but at least we’d have a snack while we figured it out. Cheese definitely helps us think. Not only is this place full of the best cheese options, it also has a great selection of meats and other delicacies. One of our favorites is their Prosciutto di Parma, which is wonderfully tender, salty and perfectly sliced every time . It’s a little pricey, but worth every penny and I just couldn’t resist! Our pre dinner “thinking” snack was shaping up.
Back at home, I unpacked the Bedford bag of treats as my grumbling stomach was getting louder and louder and my resolve to come up with something creative was getting lesser and lesser. I surrendered to the same old thing and began boiling water for pasta. Next I crushed the garlic and added a generous pour of olive oil to my trusty sauce pan to prepare a quick dish of aglio e olio. Pasta with garlic and oil never disappoints, but I felt defeated until suddenly I remembered the prosciutto! What followed was an incredibly easy and really flavorful recipe for linguine with spinach and prosciutto. I plan to play around with the recipe but my first pass was definitely a win!
As the water heated, I began my garlic and oil sauce as usual, browning the garlic lightly alongside a bay leaf in my tiny sauce pan with olive oil. I used about a half cup of oil for a pound of pasta. At the end, just before the garlic was a golden color, I added some crushed red pepper for a little heat.
Meanwhile, I sauteed fresh spinach in a big skillet and got my prosciutto ready for its starring role in this dish. I simply tore the thin slices of prosciutto into smaller strips and set them aside until they were needed. The next time I try this recipe, I may simply wilt the spinach into the pasta after straining it. I’ll also use much more spinach. I’ll be sure to let you know of any changes as I continue to work on this dish.*
Once the pasta was cooked to al dente, I strained it, added it to the skillet of spinach and dressed it with the olive oil. Before we continue, let’s talk about the olive oil and how we turn it into the sauce for your pasta. First I’ll make my usual disclaimer. I do not like biting into garlic so (like my mom), I always always remove it from the oil before continuing with any recipe. The process of sauteing the garlic cloves infuses the oil with a generous dose of flavor. However, if you like a more intense flavor and you’re OK with the texture, you can crush or slice the sauteed garlic and leave it in.
The crucial element to this sauce is pasta water. I always reserve about a cup of pasta water before straining my pasta because it is useful and in some cases vital for incorporating the ingredients in the sauce and helping the sauce adhere to the pasta. It’s the glue that holds it all together. In this case, I added a ladle of pasta water to the oil just after I removed the oil from the heat. Be careful when doing this because water will cause hot oil to splash. The last thing I do before adding the oil to the pasta is remove the bay leaf. Always be sure to do this no matter what you are making. Bay leaf gives the most delectable and savory flavor but it is awful to bite into. Trust me on this one. I’ve done it a few times and it can ruin the rest of your meal.
Now that you understand the subtle mysteries of garlic and oil, let’s put this dish together. After adding my pasta to the spinach and dressing it with olive oil the fun begins. The last three ingredients in this recipe should be added right before you serve your pasta. Just stir in the thin slices of prosciutto, top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some fresh basil. Very often we use Parmigiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses interchangeably, but in this dish I’m going to suggest you use Parmigiano. It’s a little less salty than pecorino and I think that it complements the saltiness of the prosciutto without getting too heavy-handed. The key is layering your salt and seasoning so that each component of your dish is properly flavored and you don’t end up with salty sauce and bland pasta or vice versa. In this case, the ingredients we used worked together to create just the right flavor. Mike loved it too so I’m sure this will be a repeat meal! Stay tuned for more BBTK original recipes and as always let us know what you think in the comments.
Don’t forget to check out the recipe here.
*The recipe has been revised to increase the amount of spinach from 4 ounces to 8 ounces because once spinach begins to wilt under the heat, the amount reduces significantly.