Anna Mintz is a Publicist for Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, and is an editor for The Recipe Club. Originally from Atlanta, she now lives in New York City and loves exploring NYC’s restaurant scene and trying out new recipes in her own kitchen.
Summer is upon us (!), and every time June rolls around, I get so excited for al fresco dining. There’s something very special and almost magical about enjoying your meal outside on a cool summer night. Last Saturday I had the pleasure of eating a delicious dinner on the rooftop of my friend Elizabeth’s apartment building on a perfect early summer evening. She invited a group of six lovely ladies over for dinner, and together we decided that the perfect entree would be this light Pasta with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto from Everyday Italian (Clarkson Potter, 2005) by Giada De Laurentiis.
We selected this pasta recipe because it seemed like it would strike a balance of being filling enough for a main course, but not too heavy. We were right! Since we were serving six people main-course portions, we doubled the original recipe, which makes four first-course servings. To start, we boiled the asparagus in salted water for just a couple of minutes, then transferred the asparagus to an ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus green and crisp. Elizabeth and I are huge asparagus fans, so we doubled the amount of asparagus to make this dish even more to our liking.
The real star of this dish was the pasta. Although the recipe in the book calls for ziti, Elizabeth found the best fresh angel hair pasta at the grocery store: Raffetto’s . It was hands-down the best pasta I’ve ever had at home, and it was so fresh that it literally took less than two minutes to cook. It’s a little more expensive than your typical dried pasta, but it’s so worth it.
This really was a snap to make; I’d say it took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. The only (slightly) time-consuming step was dicing up the smoked mozzarella, the basil, and the prosciutto, but I was able to enlist my friend Amy to help with that job! Something I love about this pasta is that it’s basically sauceless, meaning that only the salty, slightly starchy pasta water serves as a base and binder for the other ingredients. When we tossed the pasta with the mozzarella, basil, asparagus, and prosciutto and added in the cooking liquid, it made a light sauce that really let the flavors of the smoky cheese and the salty meat shine. This was the ideal pasta for a warm summer night’s dinner with friends!
Angel Hair Pasta with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto
Recipe from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis:
Serves 4 as a first course
(Note: We doubled the below recipe to make enough for entree portions for 6, and there were plenty of leftovers!)
8 ounces Angel Hair (or other pasta)
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into strips
3 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, diced (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the asparagus and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, and the asparagus is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the pasta and the asparagus, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. (Note: We removed the asparagus from boiling water to a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking.) When cool, strain, cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces, and set aside.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the pasta, asparagus, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and the 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid, and toss to coat. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, and basil, and toss to combine. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls and serve.