I have had a love affair with pasta since my first trip to Rome. Naturally I ate spaghetti with meat sauce and macaroni and cheese growing up in Texas but no one called it pasta. I discovered pasta on an American Express tour of Europe. You know the one where you are on a bus and whisked from country to country.
Our tour spent two nights in Rome and one evening we were free to do as we pleased. I was traveling alone and had a letter of introduction from a friend who was an Admiral in the “Third and Honorary” Texas Navy. He had given the owner of a restaurant in Rome a certificate from the Governor of Texas, making him on Honorary Texan. I didn’t know anything about the restaurant other than my friend said the owner loved Texans and would make sure that I had a good time and a very delicious meal. Little did I know that this restaurant is where fettuccine all’ alfredo was made famous.
I was welcomed by the owner and told that he would take care of my meal personally. Sitting by myself and sipping a glass of wine, this young Texas girl who had never been out of the country had no idea what to expect. First musicians came over and played The Eyes of Texas (in an Italian restaurant in Rome). Everyone in the restaurant was looking at me…wondering why they weren’t playing some Italian love song. All of the sudden a cart was pushed over with owner following. My dinner was being prepared table side. A large platter with a mound of melting butter was tossed with paper thin fettuccine and lots of grated parmesan cheese. The constant tossing mixed everything into a lovely creamy consistency. This large platter was placed in front of me along with the gold fork and spoon that was used to toss everything together.
The owner explained that in the late 1920’s actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks ate at the restaurant and loved this pasta dish so much that they presented Alfredo di Lelio (the original owner) with the gold fork and spoon that I was now eating with. How could anyone not fall in love with pasta after that experience…especially fettuccine.
Since it is spring, my pasta dish was inspired by all the green seedlings that I am growing. The cream sauce is prepared with prosciutto for a salty taste and peas for a sweet taste. Fettuccine is tossed in the sauce and fresh pea shoots are added at the end for a real touch of spring.
Fettuccine And Peas In A Prosciutto Cream Sauce
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 c. finely minced onion or shallot
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 2 slices prosciutto, diced
- 1 c. cream (half and half may be used)
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 c. frozen peas, defrosted
- 12 oz. dried fettuccine
- a large handful of fresh pea shoots plus more for garnish
Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.
In the meantime, in a large sauté pan heat the butter and oil until just sizzling. Add the onion and sauté until translucent and soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the prosciutto and cook for an additional minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the cream and pepper and let simmer until slightly thickened. Add the cheese, stir to combine and keep warm. If sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little milk.
When the pasta is cooked to just al dente, drain and add to the prosciutto cream sauce. Add the peas and let simmer until peas are warmed through and tender. Add a handful of pea shoots (reserve some for garnish) and gentle toss and plate your dishes. Sprinkle with a little extra cheese and garnish with additional pea shoots.
Serve with extra grated cheese at the table.
The vibrant color of the peas and pea shoots just speak of spring to me. I love the flavor combination of the sweet peas along with the salty prosciutto and cheese in the cream sauce. It is a cream based sauce but as you can see from the photo it is light enough to still taste the delicate flavor of the spring peas and shoots.