Paglia e fieno literally translates to straw and hay in Italian, and it’s not hard to find these “nests” of green and yellow pasta already made in specialty stores or good supermarkets where I live. However, like most things, homemade is best, so if you have the time and inclination, make your own pasta. I made a big batch of both regular egg fettucine and spinach fettuccine on Easter Sunday, which is when we ate this dish. If you want a recipe for making spinach pasta, click here. For plain egg pasta, the fine OO flour from Italy is best, combined with fresh eggs. You can make a well on a board and mix it the old-fashioned way, but these days, I mostly use a food processor and dump the flour and eggs in there, starting with about 1 1/2 cups of flour and two eggs. Add more flour until it forms a ball in the food processor bowl, then remove it and knead it some more, adding a little flour if necessary. When it’s smooth as a baby’s bottom, cover it and let it rest for at least a half hour, then roll it out with a pasta machine, or by hand, and cut it in the fettuccine shape.
The sauce is a classic — and also a waist expander, but if it’s a special occasion, who cares? It’s worth every calorie. Sorry I don’t have any photos while I was making the sauce, but it comes together so fast and we were all so hungry that I failed to snap any photos. You make the sauce while the pasta is boiling in the water– it’s that quick to do. Start by cutting up the prosciutto into bits and cooking it briefly in the butter. Add the cream and peas and let the cream reduce a bit. However don’t let it thicken too much because the parmesan cheese will naturally thicken the sauce. Drain the pasta, but retain a cup or more of the pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce. Add the drained pasta to the cream, prosciutto and peas and bestow it a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Swirl everything around and if it seems too thick, add some of the pasta water and swirl a bit more. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese, incorporating it into the dish. Serve with additional parmesan grated on top.
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- 1½ pounds paglia e fieno pasta
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
- ¼ pound (or more if you like) prosciutto, cut into small bits
- 1 cup frozen peas
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Cook the pasta in ample salted water and drain, but save about a cup of the pasta water.
- Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
- Cut the prosciutto into small pieces.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the prosciutto bits until they start to crisp.
- Add the cream and the frozen peas and cook a couple of minutes.
- The cream will start to reduce.
- Don't reduce it too much.
- It will thicken more when you add the parmesan cheese.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, sprinkling with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.
- Swirl the pasta in the sauce.
- If need be, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
- Turn off the heat, and add the parmesan cheese.
- Swirl to blend it through, then add more once on top once it's in the serving dish.