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Spinach Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Tomatoes
Spinach tagliatelle are the classic egg noodles of Emilia-Romagna, and this dish incorporates some of the best ingredients of the region: prosciutto from the hills of Langhirano outside Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced in a defined area in Emilia; and, of course, good homemade pasta.
If you don'twant to make your own pasta, select dried egg noodles or spinach noodles imported from Italy, such as Fini, Del Verde, or De Cecco. All are excellent brands and easily available in Italian specialty stores.
For The Spinach Tagliatelle
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 extra-large eggs
2 tablespoons cooked, finely chopped fresh or frozen spinach, squeezed of all moisture
For The Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1/3 cup minced carrot
1/3 cup minced celery
1/4 pound prosciutto, cut into a 1/8-inch slice and then cut into thin strips
3 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice, put through a food mill to remove the seeds
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Prepare the spinach dough as instructed on pages 48-49, using the flour and the eggs in this recipe.
Roll out the dough and cut it into tagliatelle as instructed on page 50.
Prepare the sauce: Heat the butter and oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring, until vegetables are lightlygolden and soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the prosciutto and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring a few times. Add the tomatoes and the cream and season with salt and just a touch of pepper. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until sauce has a mediumthick consistency, 10 to 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add I tablespoon of salt and the tagliatelte. Cook, uncovered, over high heat until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite.
Drain the pasta and place it in a large, heated serving bowl. Add the sauce and about 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano, and mix well. Serve at once with additional Parmigiano.
Do not add all the sauce to the pasta at once, for you might not need it all. I generally mix the pasta with about half the sauce, then add more as needed. Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated or frozen.
Deep-Fried Sweet Pastry Balls
Fritters! The mere word brings back images of large platters piled with these light, golden balls made of rice, ricotta, or just flour, butter, sugar, and yeast. In my youth, every household in Bologna prepared fritters. They were delicious, simple to make, and inexpensive. Unfortunately, in Italy today this type of dessert is disappearing. It's too bad because even while trying to eat a healthier diet, we are also eliminating a most basic "comfort" food.
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, diluted in 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon lukewarm water
Salt to taste
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Oil for frying
Additional granulated sugar, spread on a plate
In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, the diluted yeast, and a pinch of salt into a soft batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the remaining flour, eggs, butter, and sugar to the batter, and mix well to incorporate. Knead the dough by hand, or with an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, until it is smooth, soft, and pliable, and just a bit sticky, 5 to 6 minutes by hand or 2 to 3 minutes with the mixer. Place the dough in a lightly floured large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubted in volume, 1 to 1 1/2. hours.
Transfer the dough to a wooden board and flatten it down with your hands. Knead it lightly for a minute or two. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces. Flour your hands lightly and roll out each piece of dough with a light back-and-forth motion into a roll about the thickness of a thin sausage. Cut each roll into 1-inch pieces and place them on a lightly floured platter or cookie sheet.
Pour 2 inches of oil in a medium-size saucepan. When the oil is very hot (375 °F. on a thermometer), drop a few pieces of dough at a time into the hot oil. When the fritters are golden on both sides, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Roll the fritters in the additional sugar, pile them on a serving platter, and serve hot.
You can till the fritters with a dollop of thick jam, pastry cream, fruit puree, or zabaglione. Place the tilling in a small pastry bag fitted with a small tip, press the tip into the fritters, and till.From Biba's Italian Kitchen. Copyright � by Biba Caggiano. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.