Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spring Comes in a Pasta Dish

Good evening everyone!  With warmer temperatures on the way, everyone is thinking about spring (and generally having a better attitude!)  While this mindset is an excellent trend, it's great to shift our blog to spring ingredients and flavors.  Tonight, we highlight a new ingredient to be featured on the blog that will pave the way for the changing of seasons.  (I know it's the middle of February, but it's great to optimistic.)

The Recipe:  Tortellini with Crispy Prosciutto and Spring Vegetables
Original Recipe Found In:  America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011

What You'll Need:
4 thin slices Prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon unsalted Butter
1 small Fennel bulb, trimmed of stalks, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
2 Garlic cloves
2 Cups low-sodium Chicken Broth
1 (9 ounce) package fresh cheese Tortellini
3 Ounces Baby Spinach (about three cups)
1/2 Cup frozen Peas
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan Cheese
 2 Teaspoons fresh Lemon Juice

*Most cooks are familiar with the spice of fennel seeds and adding them to a broth for a pinch of flavor.  The actual fennel vegetable is somewhat finicky in handling.  But armed with the proper knowledge, it's a snap to prepare for cooking.  First, cut off the stems and feathery fronds (they look like wisps of dill.)  After this, cut a very thin slice off the base and remove any blemished or tough outer layers.  Next, cut the bulb in half and remove the pyramid shaped core from the inside.  Finally, cut the halves into quarters and slice into 1/2-inch slices crosswise.  You won't notice any sort of smell when you cut or cook, but it will definitely add some flavor to what you're cooking with.

To start, cook the prosciutto in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until the slices are crispy and lightly browned, about five minutes.  After cooking, transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel lined plate and reserve for later.  Next, melt the butter in the skillet and stir in the fennel and cook until browned, about six to nine minutes.  If you are afraid that the fennel is getting too brown, turn down the heat and sauté lightly.  After the fennel is cooked, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Next, add the broth and the tortellini and bring the heat of the skillet to a rapid simmer.  This shouldn't take too long if the skillet is shallow enough.  Let the broth to continue to simmer vigorously and stir often until the tortellini is tender and the sauce has begun to thicken, between six to nine minutes.  It's okay to check a piece of tortellini to see if it has cooked completely before moving to the next step.

After the tortellini has cooked, stir in the spinach, peas, and heavy cream and cook over low heat, stirring gently, yet consistently, until the spinach has wilted and the peas have cooked through, about three minutes.  Next, take the skillet off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon into individual bowls, top with the crisped prosciutto and any additional Parmesan cheese, serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

The overall dish is light and perfect on the pallet.  The tortellini isn't too heavy with cheese and cooked perfectly in the chicken broth.  The chicken broth thickened up just enough that it almost doesn't taste like a sauce, yet it lightly coated all the ingredients and gave it a great taste.  The wilted spinach doesn't add too much to the flavor quotient, but it adds a pop of color and a boost of healthy vitamins.  The fennel isn't too flavorful also, but it really rounded out the dish.  The crispy prosciutto gives the pallet a textural difference to enjoy with all the other "soft" ingredients.  Overall, a great, light pasta recipe that will have anyone ready for spring!

Thanks for joining us this week, check back next week as we continue our culinary adventures.  Until then,


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