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Prosciutto: A Natural, Topped with Linguini and Pesto

by Toni Lydecker

I often buy a few ounces of prosciutto di Parma at the deli counter even when I don’t have anything particular in mind, knowing it adds a deliciously savory note to lots of different solo meals. 

There are several choices at any deli counter, but I always ask for prosciutto di Parma because of its reliable quality; cured traditionally, it contains no additives except sea salt. If I’m not sure when I’ll use it, I might buy presliced prosciutto di Parma in a package that, unopened, will keep for a month or longer.

Here are some things you can do with that prosciutto: make a gourmet grilled ham and cheese sandwich, strew torn pieces over a salad or hot pizza slice, add strips to an omelet or frittata. Now that we’re entering the season when fresh basil is abundant in farmers’ markets and supermarkets, I like to borrow an idea I encountered in a Chicago restaurant: using prosciutto slices as a base for pasta tossed with pesto.

For solo cooks, pesto makes a great “for the freezer” sauce.  Reserving some for that night’s pasta and perhaps to use as a sandwich spread the next day, I freeze the rest (leaving out the cheese).  Prepared pesto is another option—as with the prosciutto, go for the best you can find.

Makes 1 serving
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces linguine, tagliatelle or other long dried pasta
2 thin slices prosciutto di Parma (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons prepared pesto or 2 tablespoons homemade pesto (recipe follows) combined with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Combine 6 cups cold water and the salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tagliatelle, stirring to submerge and separate the strands.

While the pasta cooks, arrange the prosciutto slices on a dinner plate.

Drain the tagliatelle when it is cooked al dente, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water. Return the pasta to the saucepan and immediately mix in the pesto, adding cooking water as necessary to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Mound the tagliatelle in the center of the prosciutto slices.

Homemade Pesto for the Freezer: In a blender or food processor container, combine 2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds, 2 cloves crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend at high speed, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides, until smooth. After reserving the amount you plan to use over the next couple of days, spoon the remaining mixture into ice cube trays; freeze. Transfer the frozen pesto cubes to recloseable plastic bags and return to the freezer. To use: For a single serving, thaw one cube (equal to 2 tablespoons).

Photo credit: Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma

© 2007 Toni Lydecker


Toni Lydecker
is the author of Serves One: Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own and is working on a Sicilian cookbook.She can be reached at www.tonilydecker.com.

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