So needless to say (or as I’m always thinking in my head “needles to hay”), the transition from winter to spring is a confusing time. The temperature fluctuations, pretty much all across the country, will make your head spin. Most nights what I end up eating is concocted on my bike rides home from work (when I’m not planning a meal a head of time) and recently I’ve been all over the map. One day I’m riding in a sweatshirt giddy with anticipation for spring, the next I’m hunkered down in my ski parka, ski mittens, a fleece lined hat and neck warmer. I could go on, but lets talk food.
What I really wanted to talk about is this magic thing called a roux. Now it’s not very nutritious or glamorous. It’s not some new superfood. It’s nothing really, just a little butter, flour and milk full of old fashioned charm. I think it’s magical. Add some spices, infuse the milk with an herb, throw in a little cheese…and now you have a bonafide fancy cream sauce, a faux-alfredo sauce. You don’t need mountains of cheese or heavy cream, just a few basic pantry items.
Now I’m not trying to label this pasta recipe as “healthy” but it does have some veggies in it, and it’s way lighter than some other cream sauces that I’ve come across. It’s still a comfort dish and I think we’re all in need of a little comfort to battle this cold winter.
[Prep: 10mins / Cook: 25mins / TOTAL: 35mins
[4 servings servings]
- 1 bunch asparagus, washed and chopped into 1 ½ inch pieces
- About 20 small mushroom caps, washed and quartered
- 5 slices prociutto, sliced into long strips
- 4-5 fresh sage leaves
- 1 ¼ cup milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/3 cup panko
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 pack fettuccine (or bowties would work great too!)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Put a large pot of salted water over high heat and cover, it should take about 10 minutes to boil. During this time you can start prepping the ingredients.
Into a small skillet or saucier pour 1 ¼ cup milk, add the sage leaves and bring to a slow simmer over med heat. You’ll want to whisk the mixture so the milk doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the skillet. After a few minutes of simmering turn the heat to low and let sit for 5 minutes. Pour off the milk mixture into a small container, there should be about 1 cup remaining. Rinse and dry off the skillet – you can reuse it to toast the panko.
While the milk is simmering you can get started on the veggies and prosciutto. Rinse the asparagus, snap off the bottoms - discard, and cut the remaining pieces into 1 ½ inch spears. Rinse the mushrooms, trim the stems and quarter. Layer the prosciutto slices on top of each other and roll tightly lengthwise. Cut into ½ inch strips. Unroll and pull strips apart. Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Add ½ tablespoon butter, asparagus and a dash of salt. Let sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Remove asparagus and add the mushrooms to the same skillet. Add ½ tablespoon more of butter and let mushrooms sit undisturbed for the first minute. Add a dash of salt and stir mushrooms a few times, after 5 minutes remove them from the skillet. Add prosciutto strips to the skillet, let sit for 1 minute undisturbed. Stir a few times and let cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp.
The pasta water is probably boiling at this point. Add 1 box of fettuccine – or any other pasta that you have chosen, I think bowties would work really well this recipe – and bring back to a boil. If you are using fettuccine set your timer to 10 minutes.
Now onto the last two elements of the dish. To toast the panko, just add a little pad of butter to the small skillet and put the heat on medium. Once it’s melted add the panko, a dash of salt, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and 1 /4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Let it toast for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the panko doesn’t burn. Once it is finished, pour toasted panko into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the grated parmesan cheese, mix well. (I had a sprig of parsley I wanted to use up so I chopped that up and added it in to the mix)
The base of this “cream sauce” is the roux. To begin, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the large skillet over med-high heat, whisk in the 2 tablespoons of flour. The mixture should be smooth, thick and start to bubble. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the sage infused milk. Put it back over the heat, but lower it to medium. Season with a little salt, some fresh black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Gently whisk roux until it thickens – about 2-3 minutes. Add vegetables, prosciutto and parmesan. Mix well until everything is coated. The pasta should be finished about this time. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water. Drain and add pasta to the large skillet. Mix well add a little of the reserved pasta water, cover and let sit for 2 minutes.
Serve and top off with the panko mixture and enjoy!