A crunchy, delicious way to serve up the best ham
It is always tempting when cooking a pasta dish to use only Italian ingredients, but of course pasta will go with just about anything.
In the UK, we are often fed a diet of crappy processed ham sold in uninspiring thin slices, which is a shame since in this country we create wonderful hams. Aside from famous hams such as Wiltshire and York Ham, there are many small producers who make stunning cooked hams of their own. Dig around on the deli counter at leading supermarkets and find the best hams you can, or better still, find a deli or country butcher that cooks their own using the best pork. If you want a bit more fun, buy a nice quality lump of gammon, drill holes through it with a sharp knife and fill them with rosemary. Then simmer it gently in stock with carrots and onions and anything else you fancy. Brilliant for sarnies and, of course, this dish!
This is a dead simple recipe that pulls together two wonderful cultures.
- 300g good ham – end cuts are fine - in nice thick slices.
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 handful chopped parsley
- 1 tub mascarpone
- Milk (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese or grana padano
- salt and pepper
- Fresh tagliatelle
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
Put on a large pan of water for the pasta – salted and with a tbs of olive oil. Always remember to cook pasta in plenty of water.
In a large frying pan, put a large splash of olive oil and fry the finely chopped onion and garlic until soft, but not heavily browned. A medium heat is fine for this. Chop up the ham removing any excess fat and add to the onion. Fry for a few minutes until just turning colour – don’t fry too heavily.
Add the mascarpone and stir then add the cheese. Add the parsley and the salt and pepper to taste – loads of black pepper but be careful with the salt as both the cheese and the ham will have added saltiness.
Cook this through only very gently as you do not want it to dry out. Once you add the pasta, it will absorb some of the liquid, so if it is getting stodgy, add a little milk.
Put the pasta on to cook – fresh pasta only takes a minute or two for tagliatelle, so don't forget it. The pasta must be al dente.
Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Put the mix into small oven dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumbs – I made mine out of some stale baguette I had around.
Drizzle with a little oil and put under a grill until golden. Serve with salad and a chilled English white wine.
And there you have it. Very quick and easy, looks great, tastes yummy and is a happy meeting between Britain and Italy.