mincing with scissors

Recipe: Pasta Maria

You know what’s awesome? When the Italian guy you thought you’d be learning how to cook from calls you the “better chef of the house” and asks what you’ll be making. And then wants seconds. And then thirds. And then asks you for the recipe.

I made the best pasta last night. It wasn’t my usual favorite type of pasta (super stuffed and gooey and creamy and alfredo-ey) but for some reason we couldn’t stop eating it. We joked it must be the mushrooms. Allora, I thought I’d share the recipe.

Now, in Italian cuisine, everyone expects the food they’re eating to have a name. You can’t just call it chicken and say you threw in some mushrooms, they don’t understand that. No, you need to say you made Pollo con funghi. And then it’s delicious. However, such practices are much too restricting for my cooking creativity, so the only fancy name I care to give my pasta is ‘Maria’ (“La Chiave!”) because I think the key to the whole thing was the last ingredient.

Pasta Maria

Makes: Roughly 4 servings if you’re not one to stuff your face.

Ingredients | Ingredienti

  • ~375g Pasta (eliche, fusilli, etc.)
  • 1 can Tomato pulp (polpa di pomodoro)
  • ~8-10 Mushrooms (funghi), chopped
  • 3 slices Prosciutto crudo (I prefer cotto myself), sliced and diced
  • 1/4 Red onion (cipollina), minced.
  • 2 cloves Garlic (aglio), minced (by hand, not garlic press!)
  • 1.5oz Olive oil (olio di oliva) – enough to cover the bottom of the pan, plus
  • 1/2 tsp. Regular salt (sale)
  • Coarse salt (sale grosso) – I figured out the how much salt to put in to make the past delicious even on its own. How much? Too much. Delicious.
  • Black pepper (pepe nero)
  • Basil seasoning (basilico)
  • twig Rosemary (rosemarino), fresh if possible, diced

Directions | Direzioni

1.Put water into a pot. How much water? Enough for the amount of pasta you’ll need.

2. Add sale grosso and a small blob of olive oil to the water.

3. Bring to a boil.

4. Put pasta into boiling water and lower to a simmer. You can keep boiling technically, I was just behind on my vegetable cutting and wanted to give myself more time.

Unlike the fancy cooking shows, I like to peel, cut and dice while other things are boiling and simmering. Allora,

5. Start peeling, cutting and dicing the veggies and prosciutto for the sauce.

6. Cover bottom of decently large pan (which needs to be enough for all your pasta!) with olive oil, and put on low setting.

7. Throw in minced onion and garlic and let simmer. Make sure the heat is low enough for these to cook and not burn!!

8. When onions and garlic start smelling delicious and are cooking but haven’t started to bronze too much yet, add all mushrooms into pan. Stir so that they are all at least somewhat covered in oil, but don’t worry about adding more if they’re not. Mushrooms eventually release their own water so they shouldn’t burn.

9. When nearly bronzed, sprinkle a dash of basil seasoning and a teaspoon of salt on top.

10. Add in prosciutto. Let simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

11. Add tomato pulp. Stir so everything is mixed. Let cook for a couple minutes.

At this point, I gave the sauce a try. Everything was great but it tasted too tomatoey. So I racked my brain for what counterbalanced tomato and added in another pinch of basil and then a larger dash of rosemary and stirred. And let me tell you, the rosemary did it. So good.

12. Taste sauce, add in large dash of fresh rosemary and stir.

13. Assuming the pasta is cooked by now, add pasta. Mix everything together.

Serve immediately and enjoy!