Back of the Pantry
As the end of the school year drew to a close last week, I [naively] thought Great, the kids are on summer vacation! No more homework, no need to pack lunches, no alarm clocks! Time to rest. Aaah.
I forgot a few details. Like gymnastics recitals. And a dear visitor from out of town. And summer camps that require packed lunches, a lot of driving, a lot of waiting in my car, and…alarm clocks.
This week turned out to be busier than I expected, so busy that I haven’t had a chance to do some proper food shopping. So when it came time to prepare dinner tonight, I hadn’t the foggiest clue what to do. I figured I would dig deep, to the neglected items in the back of my pantry, and see what I could pull together. You know we all have those items that just get pushed back…and forgotten.
This is the type of cooking that can either result in a spark of genuine inspiration or something extremely awful.
What I pulled out of my pantry: penne pasta, garlic, a shallot, a tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil.
In my refrigerator, I had: prosciutto, Parmegianno-Regianno, some beautiful shiitake mushrooms and a few bouquets of asparation.
Are you familiar with asparation? It is also known as baby broccoli or, even cuter, broccolini. A tender cruciferous, with long stalks like asparagus, but the florets of broccoli, it is sweet and delicious. We actually like it grilled (I know, that’s a big surprise).
The ingredients came together with the help of a bit of cream as Penne with Asparation, Shiitake Mushrooms & Prosciutto. As I took my first bite, I breathed a sigh of relief. The saltiness from the prosciutto and anchovy melted together with the freshness of the asparation and muskiness of the shiitake. You know what? I will definitely make this again.
- 1lb dried penne
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 cup finely diced prosciutto (or ham)
- 3-4 anchovy fillets
- 3 cups Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- Salt to taste
- 1 bunch asparation, about 15 stalks, cut into ½ inch pieces, stalks and florets separated
- ½ cup cream
- Parmegianno-Regianno Cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook penne pasta according to instructions.
In a large, heavy saute pan, melt butter in olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots, saute for about a minute. Add red pepper flakes, prosciutto and anchovy fillets, mashing the anchovies into a paste as you incorporate it into the ingredients.
When the shallots are translucent and the prosciutto crisp, add the shiitake mushrooms and asparation stalks, season with a little salt. Saute until the mushrooms soften, adding a little olive oil if it starts to dry out.
Add the asparation florets, about an 1/8 cup of pasta water and saute. Stir in the cream. Add the penne to the saute pan and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.