Friday, January 15, 2010

Farfalle with Mushrooms, Prosciutto and Rosemary

I'm a recipe girl. I browse through cookbooks, find something I want to make, buy the ingredients and follow the instructions more or less to the letter. That's not to say I don't make substitutions and get creative based on what I have on hand on a given day, but when it comes to creating my own dishes the results have typically been less than spectacular. I still recall scraping a disastrous lemon chicken dish -- so overpowering with lemon my lips pucker just thinking about it -- into the trash bin in frustration.

Tonight's dinner was another story -- without a recipe in mind but knowing I had prosciutto, cremini mushrooms and whipping cream in my fridge I decided on a pasta dish. Simple, maybe, but still many places where it could go wrong in the flavour and texture department. Tomato sauces I've done a million times, but I avoid cream sauces because they can be heavy (and of course they're not great for the waistline). Still, tonight I was feeling like something decadent and figured I should at least know how to do a cream-based pasta should the need arise.

I started by browning quartered mushrooms -- about two cups' worth -- in a bit of butter and olive oil over medium heat, adding a splash of water to the pan to prevent them from drying out too much. Once they had some nice colour to them and had shrunk down a bit I added four slices' worth of diced prosciutto along with 1 tbsp of chopped fresh rosemary. I let that cook for a few minutes, turned down the heat slightly, then added 1/4 cup chicken stock, 1/4 cup dry white wine, 1/3 cup whipping cream and the juice of half a lemon. I stirred all that together and let it reduce down until thickened slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I'd been cooking about two cups worth of farfalle in boiling, salted water, just to al dente. Reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water, I drained the farfalle and then mixed it into my saute pan with the cream sauce. I added some salt and black pepper to taste, and then dished it out. To finish I grated over some Parmigiano-Reggiano, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and some chopped fresh parsley. And the verdict? Delicious! Creamy without being heavy, and with a really balanced flavour -- the saltiness of the prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano, the earthiness of the mushrooms, and the vibrancy of the lemon and rosemary contrasting with the cream. Not bad for an improvised dish, in fact part of the reason for this blog post is so I don't forget it!

I think the key is practice and the refusal to let kitchen failures discourage you. Even recipes aren't foolproof, after all!

Farfalle with Mushrooms, Prosciutto and Rosemary

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups cremini mushrooms, washed and quartered
4 slices prosciutto, diced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
Juice of half a lemon
1/8 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat butter and oil in large saute pan over medium heat, add quartered mushrooms and a splash of water and cook until browned and a bit shrunk down. While this is happening cook farfalle pasta until al denta in salted, boiling water.

Add prosciutto and rosemary to pan and cook for a few minutes to allow the flavours to meld together. Turn down the heat slightly then add the chicken stock, white wine, whipping cream and the lemon juice. Reserve the lemon to squeeze a few drops over the finished dish. Stir all ingredients together and cook until cream sauce has thickened slightly, 5-10 minutes.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water to help the sauce coat the farfalle if need be. Mix the cooked farfalle in the saute pan with the sauce. Add salt and black pepper to taste and stir everything together. Ladle it out, and garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, and a final spritz of lemon juice.

Serves 2.

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