CLASSIC pasta paglia e fieno with prosciutto, peas, cream








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Paglia e fieno (straw and hay in Italian) is a beautiful dish made with a combination of green (spinach) and yellow fettucine, with a cream sauce. There are several options for the ingredients in the sauce, with peas and prosciutto (or ham) the primary ones. Mushrooms are also used quite frequently. The mushroom version will be presented here as an option.

for the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 6 ounces of prosciutto, or ham, or pancetta, thinly sliced in julienne-type strips
  • one cup fresh or frozen peas
  • one and one-half cups fresh white or crimini mushrooms, sliced or diced (mushrooms optional)
  • one cup heavy cream
  • one-half cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

for the pasta:

  • one-half pound freshly made green (spinach) fettucine and one-half pound freshly made yellow fettucine (It is fine, of course, to use all yellow or all green fettucine if you wish).

Since we like the peas slightly al dente (like the pasta), and there is a danger of getting them too soft or mushy in the sauce preparation, we prepare the peas, either fresh or frozen, first. Parboil them until they are almost perfect to your taste (they will cook slightly longer in the sauce, but not much). Set aside.

Put the butter in the sauté pan over a low to medium heat. Add the onions and cook them until they are just softened, slightly gold.

Mushroom option: if you are using the mushrooms, proceed as follows (if not, skip to the next step, with prosciutto): the mushrooms (white or crimini) should be thinly sliced, or even diced in quarter-inch squares. Turn the heat up. Add the mushrooms. Stir; add some salt and pepper; turn the heat down to low. Allow the mushrooms to release their moisture (a minute or two), and then turn the heat up to high and stir frequently, until the released moisture is boiled away, almost. Then add the prosciutto as below, and continue on.

Next step: Turn the heat to medium, add the prosciutto and cook, stirring, for 2 - 3 minutes. It should have lost any raw look.

Add the cream. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the previously prepared-prepared peas at this point. Stir frequently until the cream has reduced to almost half. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cook the pasta together, in four to five quarts of boiling, salted water until it is almost al dente (the yellow pasta might take slightly longer than the green, so best to put the yellow pasta in the boiling water first; the green thirty seconds later). Stir them well together! When almost al dente, remove from the heat and drain well.

Return the sauce to the heat, add the pasta, and toss the two together (trying not to bruise the peas too much). Tossing is so vital to the ultimate success of this dish. Do it well! Add the parmesan and toss a few more times. Serve immediately on warmed plates or platter. Maybe add a touch more parmesan to the dish, perhaps a sprig of parsley for additional color, and enjoy!

There are two more paglia e fieno variations at  paglia e fieno (2)


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