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Taste

Cooking Off the Cuff: For a Brand New Italian Pasta, Turn to Spain

This is all about leftovers, small quantities and finding a great new variation on an old favorite pasta dish. We had about 2/3 cup of roasted butternut squash left over from risotto-making, and I pureed it and turned it into agnolotti or ravioli or whatever they were: stuffed egg pasta, anyway. There wasn’t enough squash to fill a lot of agnolotti and, hence, there weren’t enough agnolotti to fill Jackie and me. There was enough extra pasta dough, however, to make two wee portions of tagliatelle, which we decided to have for dessert after our agnolotti.

One of the most appealing of quick pasta dishes is egg noodles with cream, peas and prosciutto: Warm slivers of prosciutto in butter, add cream, add peas, add boiled pasta, finish with parmesan. It is one of those few dishes – along with mattar paneer – in which frozen peas are just about as good as fresh. Maybe better, though I surely say that because of many happy memories.

I was thinking along those lines when I saw another small quantity in the fridge: six or maybe eight slices of chorizo (the smoked-paprika-scented Spanish version made by Fermin and becoming fairly easy to find in the US: if possible don’t buy it pre-sliced – the whole ones keep well). Clearly, I’d cut too much for a drinks snack a day or two before. The chorizo’s paprika and other seasonings would seep deliciously into the cream and spice up the whole dish, so I substituted it for prosciutto and proceeded in the usual way.

After putting up a pot of salted water to boil, I finely chopped the chorizo and warmed it in butter over low heat in a frying pan; soon, the butter turned red and the kitchen smelled of smoky pimentón. To this I added heavy cream – about half a cup (120 ml) for this tiny quantity. When it came up to the simmer and took on an attractive color, I added a big handful of frozen peas (still frozen, though I don’t suppose there’s any reason not to defrost them first). At this point, I boiled the tagliatelle, keeping an eye both on the peas (they were done in a flash, at which point I turned the heat down to nearly nothing) and on the noodles. When the tagliatelle were tender, I raised the heat under the sauce, added the drained pasta to the skillet, tossed to combine and served with grated parmesan.

It had all the appeal of the prosciutto-based original, including the contrast of textures among peas, meat and pasta, but lots more flavor. It is certainly a dish that we’ll eat again – and serve to guests – but made in normal quantities. Indeed, it’s something that can very easily be made in just about any amount; the proportions are flexible, and you can wing it once you get a sense of what the dish should look like.

<p>Minced Spanish chorizo and a nice pat of butter</p>

Minced Spanish chorizo and a nice pat of butter

<p>Chorizo-scented (and Chorizo-tinted) cream receives peas right from the freezer</p>

Chorizo-scented (and Chorizo-tinted) cream receives peas right from the freezer

<p>After just a minute or two, the sauce is ready for the pasta</p>

After just a minute or two, the sauce is ready for the pasta

<p>Fresh tagliatelle added to the skillet</p>

Fresh tagliatelle added to the skillet

<p>Just a small portion after a modest plate of butternut squash agnolotti</p>

Just a small portion after a modest plate of butternut squash agnolotti

<p>The squash agnolotti that gave rise to the leftover pasta</p>

The squash agnolotti that gave rise to the leftover pasta