Strozzapreti has interesting meanings; according to the wik, it means either priest stranglers or priest chokers, depending on who you ask (this is Italian, after all). But it only has one meaning for me - and that's delicious.
So when I came home with a bunch of asparagus and some prosciutto, I decided to make a pasta for Significant Eater and me. I always try to match the pasta with the condimento (yeah, the sauce) I'm making and since asparagus was the main ingredient, I went looking for some penne in my cupboard, but staring back at me was a bag of strozzapreti, so that became the choice - and a great one, since this was an organic pasta from Emilia-Romagna.
I cut the asparagus into the same lengths as the strozzapreti, leaving behind the woody ends. Then I blanched the asparagus in the pasta cooking water, while starting the sauce...it's easy to overcook asparagus, and the asparagus is going to get some more heat in the saucepan, so 2 to 3 minutes is plenty; don't forget to shock that asparagus after blanching - that way it keeps most of its nice, green color.
At the same time, I crisped up some of the prosciutto I had cut up in a tablespoon or two of good olive oil; after crisping, remove the ham, leaving the oil, and set it aside. Start the pasta, then slowly saute the garlic and hot pepper in the oil left in the pan, add the diced tomato, and when that all starts bubbling add the wine or vermouth and reduce till there's very little liquid left in the saucepan. At this point, you can throw the asparagus back into the pan to bring it up to temp...
Now toss the pasta with the sauce, turn the heat off, and start adding the Parmigiano and a little pasta water and keep tossing and tasting. Hot enough? Peppery enough? Salty enough? Cheesy enough? You know the drill...keep adding cheese, pasta water, and seasoning until it's to your liking...that's why you remove the pasta before it's fully cooked - it will keep cooking as you finish saucing it. Finally, right before plating, add the crispy prosciutto and give a final toss. A little more cheese and maybe some black pepper on top before serving, and you're set. Enjoy...and leave your priest alone...
Strozzapreti With Asparagus, Prosciutto, Tomato and Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 pound Strozzapreti (or penne, or whatever - just don't use a stupid shape)
1 bunch asparagus - about a pound
4 ounces prosciutto, cut up like the picture
1 Roma tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
2 ounces Parmigiano-Regiano, grated (yes, good Pecorino may sub)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
2 T good olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Method above. Serves 4 as a primo, 2 as a secondo.