Fettuccine with Leeks and Prosciutto

This one goes out to everyone who wants to try fettuccine with something other than Alfredo or tomato sauce.  It’s super-simple, twice as delicious, and evokes some rich and quintessentially Italian flavors, especially if you splurge a little bit for high-quality ingredients.

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Without further ado, here is your ingredient list to make 3-4 servings in the space of about 45 minutes or less (i.e. a great weeknight dish):

  • 2 leeks
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz. imported Italian sliced prosciutto
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated fontina cheese, preferably Fontina Valle d’Aosta
  • 4-6 oz. fresh asparagus
  • extra virgin olive oil

For your prep work, cut the roots and dark green tops off of the leeks — you only want to use the white or light green portions.  Freeze the tops and reserve them for making a vegetable stock later.  Slice the leeks lengthwise and rinse them well in cold water, separating the layers to make sure any hidden dirt is cleaned away, then slice them crosswise into strips.  Also cut the prosciutto crosswise into strips and set them aside.

The asparagus will be roasted in the oven separately from the main pasta dish, to be added at the end.  Preheat the oven to 450.  Snap the fibrous ends off of each asparagus stalk.  Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper, then toss to coat evenly and arrange the stalks on a baking sheet.  We will roast these toward the end of the cook time.

In a deep, straight-sided skillet, add the leeks, water, butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender and the water is evaporated, which should take about 30 minutes.  Take care not to let the leeks brown.

While the leeks are cooking, boil some salted water for your pasta.  As the leeks are halfway through their cook time, get the asparagus into the oven to roast, and your pasta into the water to start boiling.

When the leeks are tender, stir in the heavy cream and cook for about 2 minutes until it starts to bubble and thicken.  Next add the prosciutto strips and a few turns of black pepper from your grinder.  By this time the pasta should be at or near a nice al dente, and the asparagus should be about done.  Remove the asparagus from the oven to your cutting board, and slice into one-inch pieces.  Drain the pasta and toss it into the leek-prosciutto mixture, then remove the skillet from the heat.  Toss in the grated cheese, and then you’re ready to plate.  Finish each serving with a sprinkle of the sliced asparagus.

This was a new dish for us, with a little improv on my part, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  But boy oh boy were we pleased with the results.  And then when I added a fresh-baked loaf of my Italian herb and olive oil bread — big happy grins for miles.  We were in strong agreement that this recipe is a keeper.  I hope you’ll try it and enjoy it as thoroughly as we did.  Until our next visit to the kitchen:  Eat well, my friends!

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