Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fettucine with asparagus, prosciutto, and smoked mozzarella

I made this Giada recipe the other night: spaghetti with prosciutto, asparagus, and smoked mozzarella.

Sounds great, right? It was speedy to throw together and contained some of my favorite ingredients. But after eating it for dinner, and then for lunch the next day, I still wasn't sure if I liked it or not.

The flavor was pretty good. But the jury is still out on smoked mozzarella. I can't believe I'm writing that. But ultimately, I prefer plain mozzarella. Preferably buffalo mozzarella. Well, let's lay it on the line: I like burrata best. Ever since I ate at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles last year, I've been dreaming of the sublime burrata the husband and I devoured there. The whole dinner was divine but that cheese just floored me. In fact, I'm pretty sure any kind of last supper scenario would involve me eating a giant ball of that burrata and then dropping dead.

Anyway, admittedly, I made some changes to the recipe, but nothing major. For one thing, I bought cappellini by mistake instead of spaghetti. I don't know what other people use cappellini for, but to me it's useless. It's so thin, I just don't think it holds up to much. The husband doesn't care for it either. When I held up the box in dismay, he shook his head scornfully.

"It's so flimsy!" he said, scowling.

I agreed. Luckily I had some fettucine on hand. So, that was change #1.

Change #2 was that the recipe only called for 3/4 lb of pasta. Whenever a recipe says to do this, I go ahead and use a full pound. A few strands of leftover pasta rattling around in my pantry is ridiculous. I'd rather just use the full box. I realize this shifted the pasta-to-stuff ratio. But still, not a dramatic adjustment.

The pasta had potential, but seemed to be lacking something. Being a sauce hound, I wanted something liquid or creamy to bind the pasta together. Even the husband agreed, and he's usually not sauce crazy.

"Maybe some ricotta would help," he suggested. "You could also add some bacon. That would be good."

I like how we were talking about making the pasta moister and he brought up bacon. How can I not love this guy? Most people would think of cream, or a little tomato sauce--not another pork product. But I knew what he meant. Frying up bacon in place of the prosciutto would at least add some more oil to the pan.

I think in the end, I liked this recipe, but I felt it needed something more. I'm still ruminating on it. Any ideas? And next time I'm definitely using regular mozzarella.

Or maybe I'll just skip the pasta altogether, get myself a big ball of burrata, a baguette, and a bottle of wine. I'm pretty sure nothing could go wrong there.


  1. The photos do show off some nice spring colors. BTW, I used to love capellini (or angel hair) with just a light tomato sauce and basil. It just doesn't weigh you down like other pasta. As for this dish, I think recipes that tend to reduce the numbers of ingredients make it simple but then make it seems like the dish is missing something. (I admit my recipes can be like that too.) Whenever I feel like a pasta dish is naked and I don't want to make a sauce for it, I always drizzle some solid good quality extra virgin olive oil. That always does the trick!

  2. Nothing could ever go wrong with burrata.

  3. I think I need to try your LA burrata. I had a deep love of it until I had a bad experience at a new local food place in town. The whole thing just kind of fell apart and tasted sour and overly milky, not delicious, like burrata should. Since that experience scarred me a year ago, I haven't gone back. Any suggestions for some store-bought burrata heaven to get me back on track?

  4. I once made dinner with 4 different kinds of pasta because I had 1/4 pound of each leftover. That was superfluous prep at its best, with 4 different cooking times. At least I got rid of a few boxes.

    As for the Giada dish, I like the bacon idea, guanciale would also work wonderfully, probably with a little pasta water added back in.

  5. OK, we were separated at birth...I'm also not a fan of capellini unless it's broken up in soup or, as Ben suggests above, napped with a light tomato sauce. Once, on a first date, a guy served me capellini--in an alfredo sauce, no less--suffice it to say, that was also the last date. (Cubed) smoked mozz always seems stubbornly unmeltable...possibly better in a blend of cheeses. And saving 25% of a box of pasta is sheer lunacy as it's barely one serving. As for burrata: Bittman recommends serving it w/ grilled whole tomatoes, bread, and olive oil. Dreamy.

  6. Only time my dad ate capellini was "in brodo". I tend to agree, ie. not my fav shape for sauces. For a skinny pasta I find it kind of heavy! Can't help but get a giant forkful of it no matter how you twirl (either that or 2 little strands).

    Your burrata, baguette & wine alternative (+ Bittman's/M.Jary's tomatoes) sounds amazing!!! - Pete

  7. This pasta dish looks quite tasty!

    We can't find smoked mozzerella over here,..but I will try & find it at my Italian delicatessen store,..thanks!

  8. I was just going to ask: what did the smoked mozzarella taste like in your dish....but you answered me. Guess I will not use it in a pasta dish.
    I'm with you on the burrata, but let's not plan on dropping dead right after. :)

  9. Bacon always makes things better :). The flavours sound fresh, but like you I'd prefer a bit more sauce too, maybe some cherry tomatoes? So they burst and add a little tang? As for thin pastas, if you like prawns, I find they go really well with garlic, prawns (or crab or lobster), chilli flakes and olive oil.

    And yes, please stay around after the burrata!

  10. awesome colors and varying textures = winning pasta dish. i actually like cappellini, but fettucine will do too. :)

  11. Ben: I agree that capellini would be best with a light tomato sauce. I'm sure I've enjoyed it that way before. And I agree about olive oil being a sure-fire fix!

    Camille: right?

    Ash: Sorry about your poor burrata experience! Unfortunately, I've never bought it at the store. I've had it a number of restaurants...but that doesn't help you, does it.

    Connie: Actually, the recipe does call for adding pasta water back in, which is the saving grace of it. Maybe I just needed to add more?

    Jary: capellini in alfredo, ugh. I like the sound of those grilled tomatoes with burrata. Sounds about right.

    Pete: Well I feel vindicated if your dad wasn't a fan of it either! After all, he was a true Italian. :)

    Sophie: If you try it, let us know what you think.

    Barbara: Yes, it was just a bit too strong for my taste.

    shaz: The tomatoes would be a good addition. And you know, I agree about the thin noodles with seafood and olive oil. I like that vietnamese style of noodles (vermicelli, I think?) with crab and garlic.

    grace: You're easier to please than me? :)

  12. Heh, I like the way your husband thinks! I love smoked cheese, but I don't think I've ever had smoked mozzarella before. It certainly looks awesome, too bad you weren't too impressed.

  13. A 16 has AWESOME burrata if you're looking for it in SF!!

  14. I have to say, this sounds delicious to me. I can't think of anything you could do to improve it.
    I actually prefer the thinnest pasta I can get my hands on. Spaghetti is to wormy for me! We eat a lot of rotini and penne when things call for spaghetti instead.

  15. Burrata is my FAVE! I get weak in the knees just thinking about that unbelievably soft blob of creamy goodness that is so great in salads, on pizzas or, heck, just plain by the spoonful.

  16. Bob: I think the smoked mozz might be better in a different context. Somehow it just overpowered the dish.

    Erin: Nice to see you here, I miss reading your blog! Yes, I've had the burrata at A16, it's awesome.

    oneordinaryday: I had to laugh about your wormy spaghetti! I like penne and other tube shapes best myself.

    CJ: Yeah, I agree...I'd eat burrata on anything or all by its lonesome!

  17. I don't know whether I like or an creeped out by burrata -- it's stringy in a weird kind of way but I agree that it does taste awfully good. Burrata on pizza -- that's a winner!

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  19. alittleyum: agreed, burrata on pizza is a surefire winner!

  20. I think that smoked mozzarella is good in moderation. The first time I ever tasted it, I had huge slabs of it melted over portobello mushroom caps and after that I vowed never to eat it again - it was just too much. A while back I made some smoked mozzarella meatballs (also a Giada recipe) and and I thought that worked really well - adding a smokey flavor to the meat. So I think it just depends . . . I wouldn't rule it out altogether though.

    Nevertheless - it's a nice photo!

  21. D.A.: Yes, I agree, it would be good in moderation. I remember that recipe you're talking about and have been meaning to make it. That sounds like a better balance to me.

  22. ooh wine, burrata cheese and baguette sounds wonderful... too bad about the pasta, it looks dang delicious.