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Paglia e Fieno with Prosciutto, Peas and Parmigiano Cheese

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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Fettucine Paglia e Fieno
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in ample salted water and drain, but save about a cup of the pasta water.
  2. Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking.
  3. Cut the prosciutto into small pieces.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the prosciutto bits until they start to crisp.
  5. Add the cream and the frozen peas and cook a couple of minutes.
  6. The cream will start to reduce.
  7. Don't reduce it too much.
  8. It will thicken more when you add the parmesan cheese.
  9. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, sprinkling with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.
  10. Swirl the pasta in the sauce.
  11. If need be, add a little of the reserved pasta water.
  12. Turn off the heat, and add the parmesan cheese.
  13. Swirl to blend it through, then add more once on top once it's in the serving dish.
 

Foglie D’Ulivo with Browned Butter Pine Nut Sauce

Aren’t they cute? I was enchanted by this shape of pasta and learned to make it following a video by Rosetta Costantino on her excellent Instagram page. They’re called foglie d’ulivo (olive leaves). This pasta shape is widely known across Italy, but originally is from the Apulia region. It’s made similarly to orecchiette, another specialty of Apulia, but instead of forming round little “ears,” the leaf-like shape requires a different technique.

You can make this with plain white or whole wheat flour, but I added spinach to the dough to attain the bright green color, mimicking actual leaves. After making the dough, (and letting it rest at least a half hour), roll it out into snake-like shapes, then cut into small pieces, which you then roll into smaller “logs” that are slightly more lumpy in the center.

Here is a step by step demonstration of me shaping the pasta leaves.

It takes a little practice, but after a few minutes of trying, you’ll be an expert and these adorable little leaves will be the beautiful result of your labor.

I served them in two different ways – with a browned butter sauce and pine nuts, plus a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Another time I tossed them with a summer salsa verde that was featured in Food 52 and includes mint, parsley, basil and capers. We liked it, but thought we might like the salsa better over fish or vegetables.

We much preferred the browned butter/pine nut sauce over this pasta, or a traditional basil pesto. You might also like it with a red sauce, but I would keep it light and use fresh tomatoes (maybe even small cherry tomatoes) so the color and shape of the green leaves don’t disappear in the sauce.

If you’ve never made pasta at home before, foglie d’ulivo may seem a bit daunting. Want to increase your knowledge of making pasta, with a really comprehensive guide to everything pasta – from the ingredients to the techniques?  It’s an online cooking school run by two sisters in Rome, Benedetta and Valeria, who started their company, Local Aromas, to teach people about Italian food. Knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate about Italy and its food, they conduct food tours in Rome in addition to their online slate of classes.

They started with courses on pasta and gnocchi but plan to expand in the future to include other foods and wines too. In their classes, you’ll learn why certain flours are used for certain pastas, how to make the dough and shape it to specific types of pasta, from farfalle to fettuccine and much more. Especially during this pandemic, if you can’t get to Italy and are looking for a great way to learn a new skill, sign up for a class at Local Aromas.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Spinach Foglie D'Ulivo with Browned Butter Pine Nut Sauce
 
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PASTA:
  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
  • 2 cups 00 flour
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • FOR THE SAUCE:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • parmesan cheese, to taste
Instructions
  1. FOR THE PASTA:
  2. Drain the spinach thoroughly, squeezing out all the water you can with your hands.
  3. Then press it with paper towels to get out any remaining water.
  4. Place the spinach and the two eggs into the food processor to break down the spinach.
  5. Start adding the flour.
  6. You may need as little as a cup and a quarter of flour.
  7. It's easy to add more flour later, but much harder to work the dough if you place too much flour into the food processor.
  8. Add just enough flour and process until the dough comes together into a ball.
  9. It will be sticky.
  10. Place the dough onto a wooden work surface, add more flour until the stickiness disappears and the dough seems more "homogenized" and softer.
  11. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a bowl and let it sit for at least ½ hour.
  12. To make the foglie, take a piece of the dough and roll it out to a snake-like shape, about ½ inch thick and about 6 to 8 inches long.
  13. If you roll it too long, it's harder to handle.
  14. Cut off small bits of the snake-like roll.
  15. Roll the small bit so it is a bit thinner on the ends than in the middle,
  16. Holding one part of the dough with one hand, use a knife or spatula in the other hand and press down on the dough, sliding the knife or spatula along the dough.
  17. Shape with your fingers to make the ends more like a "point" of a leaf if you like.
  18. Cook the pasta in abundant salted water.
  19. If you let the pasta dry overnight, it will take longer to cook, maybe as long as 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
  20. Meanwhile, take the butter and place it in a saucepan.
  21. Cook it on medium heat until it starts to turn tan.
  22. It can burn easily, so be careful not to let it get to that point.
  23. Add the toasted pine nuts, then the drained pasta and toss everything together.
  24. Place in a serving bowl, then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.