Once, I went to a potluck party and somebody had brought a simple pasta dish with tomatoes, garlic, and olives. I remember making a beeline for it and piling my plate high with the pasta, even going for seconds and thirds – at least, that’s what I’m willing to admit I had. It was that good!
Naturally, my spidey bloggy instincts kicked in, and the next thing I knew, I was making notes in my head for a recipe.
The reason I gravitated to the dish like was because it sent me back to a trip through Italy. Coincidentally, I remember eating a pasta just like this – with prosciutto and olives – during a family vacation to Sorrento in the Amalfi Coast (this is in the south). The little Sorrentine eatery was tucked in a quiet alley just off Via Fuoro and Corso Italia. The pasta was an eye-opener for me, because I thought, Wow! So, this is how they made pasta in Italy! It was nothing like the Philippines, where mushy pasta drowned in sugar-laden tomato sauce begged to be rescued from the hell that comes from hotdog toppers and cheese-in-a-shaker (gasp!).
I was 13, it was my first time in Italy, and I was feasting on pasta almost every day. Life was good. Pasta became an obsession, almost.
So, for this dish, I wanted to channel a bit of northern Italy. I took traditional products from the north and assembled a dish that highlighted their specialties: 1) Prosciutto from Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region (or you can use Prosciutto from San Daniele in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region – also in the north); 2) Taggiasca olives from Liguria; 3) Parmesan cheese (Parmiggiano-Reggiano) from Parma (not from a shaker!). Note: The tomatoes I used are fresh, local ones – they give the sauce a light flavour and just a hint of colour.
As well, I actually used burro (butter) from Parma to finish the sauce, although you don’t have to go hunting for an Italian butter; I just happened to have some lying around. But please, please, don’t leave the butter out – it’s so good!
I got a pasta maker for Christmas, so I’m thinking how awesome this sauce is going to be with fresh pasta. Maybe next time, for another post. Meanwhile, enjoy this one for now! We all did!
- 450 grams (1 pound) dried spaghetti
- 1.8 litres (8 cups) cold water
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 shallots, finely minced
- 130 grams (~ 1 cup) black olives, pitted (I used Taggiasca from Italy)
- 3 to 4 tomatoes, diced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste or concentrate
- 42 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut up
- reserved pasta water (optional)
- 75 grams (2.5 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- a handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 200 grams (less than ½ pound) prosciutto, preferably Parma or San Daniele, at room temerature
- In a large pot, bring 1.8 L (8 cups) of cold water to a boil. When it boils, add salt and pasta. Cook according to package instructions, stirring often to loosen up the sticky strands.
- Drain the cooked spaghetti, but save about 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
- Wipe clean the same pot and set over medium heat with olive oil. When oil is hot, lower heat to medium-low and sauté garlic and shallots until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Increase heat to medium again, add olives, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes and cook until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and stir until the alcohol has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and butter until dissolved.
- Put the pasta back in the pot and gently mix until each strand is coated in the sauce. Add reserved pasta water if the sauce seems too dry.
- Toss with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
- Serve on warmed plates and garnish with prosciutto slices.