I’ve been reading and very much enjoying Anna Del Conte’s Risotto with Nettles. Tim Healy talked to me about it when he was telling me his Top Ten Cookery Books; I’d heard of the book but not read it and so decided it was time to put that right. Anna has written twelve influential books on Italian cooking, which have won prestigious awards, but Risotto with Nettles is really a memoir, told through the medium of food. Now in her mid-eighties, Anna tells us about her childhood in Italy, living through the war and then marrying an Englishman and moving to England, with recollections of food and what particular foods and recipes meant to her at different times in her life. At the end of each chapter there is a recipe or two and I was delighted to find this recipe, Tagliatelle al Prosciutto e Piselli soon after writing my last post, Risotto with Peas and Basil & Mint Pesto, where I told you of my love – more like addiction – to peas and how the Italians use them a lot. I couldn’t, therefore, resist trying Anna’s recipe. She tells us how the family cook made it the day some Allied soldiers arrived at their home to say the war was over. My meal was simply a lovely – and very easy – supper but how nice to know of Anna’s celebration when eating it. I’ve pretty much followed her recipe but as with so many recipes like this, it’s not so much a case of exact ingredients but what you have to hand and your own tastes. This recipe is for one person but just mutliply it all by however many people you are cooking for.
Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Peas
Melt about 25g of butter in a large frying pan with some olive oil. Then gently fry a finely chopped small onion until soft but not browned. Then add about 3 slices of prosciutto, sliced into strips, stir around and now add some cooked peas (enough for one) and cook, stirring gently, for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle according to the instructions on the packet – mine said 4 minutes. Drain and keep a little of the cooking water. Then add the pasta to the onion and prosciutto mixture, with just a little cooking water, and toss gently. Now add about 2 tablespoons of cream (Anna says double cream; I had single). Then add a good grating of Parmesan cheese. I always keep a chunk in the fridge and I grate it directly on to whatever I’m serving it with – never in advance. Season with plenty of freshly grated black pepper; you probably won’t need salt because of the salt in the prosciutto. Serve immediately, with a little more Parmesan grated on top.
It’s the most delicious combination of flavours: the saltiness of the prosciutto, the sweetness of the peas, the slight sharpness of the Parmesan, the spicy black pepper and all that lovely creamy mixture coating it all. It’s made in literally a few minutes – but what a wonderful ‘instant’ supper.