Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Snap Pea, Prosciutto & Walnut Fettuccine


A heavy rainstorm blew through the city a few days ago, rolling the summer humidity right up into it’s rain clouds before heading out to the Atlantic.  Stepping outside the next morning felt as though the ceiling of gray summer haze had been lifted and the maze of streets and buildings were suddenly nestled beneath a beautiful, blue sky.  Harried commuters lifted their heads a bit higher, breathing in the cool morning dew and enjoying every minute of a breezy commute to work.

I so adore this weather and know it will all too soon make way for the short days and long nights of a frigid winter.  In the coming weeks, apples, pears and squash will fill the farmer’s market to the brim, but this transformation is just beginning and the last of summer’s bounty hangs on tightly despite the temperature change.

This simple pasta highlights the transition from sweltering summer days to cozy fall nights, pairing summer’s fresh, green snap peas alongside the hearty, toasty flavors of walnuts and whole wheat pasta.  In my household, good-quality prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano are always in season and lend a beautiful texture and balanced saltiness to this dish.

YIELD 4 servings

1 cup raw walnuts
4 ounces thinly-sliced prosciutto
8 ounces snap peas
1 pound whole wheat fettuccine
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, for finishing
Olive oil, for finishing
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for finishing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake until toasted and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool.

Line another baking sheet with parchment paper, then lay each slice of prosciutto in an even layer on the parchment.  The slices should not overlap to ensure uniform baking.  Bake until crispy, about 15 minutes.  Using tongs, place the baked slices of prosciutto on a large plate lined with a paper towel.  Place another paper towel over the prosciutto and set aside.

Place a large pot of salted water over high heat to bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, prepare the snap peas by cutting each pod into fourths against the bias.  Transfer the toasted walnuts to your cutting board, then chop very coarsely.  

When the water achieves a rolling boil, cook pasta according to the package directions.  When pasta reaches al dente, reserve a bit of the pasta water before draining.  Return drained pasta to the pot, then toss with the snap peas.  Drizzle in a bit of the reserved pasta water to make the pasta come together nicely.

Divide the pasta between four plates, then crumble the prosciutto and sprinkle the walnuts evenly over the pasta.  Drizzle a bit olive oil and finely grate Parmigaiano-Reggiano over each plate.  Finish with a small sprinkle of salt and pepper just before serving.

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