First things first: I can’t remember, for the life of me, what this dish is called. I was first introduced to it at a white tablecloth Italian restaurant when I was a teenager—so a really, really long time ago. It was a transcendent experience. But the restaurant is long out of business and try as I might I can’t find what this thing is called, so that’s the way the biscotti crumbles. My criminal father was a terrible human being—and an even worse parent—but he was a gifted chef, and he was able to reverse engineer the recipe. He taught me how to make it and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.
A caveat before we get started: The original version of this dish used garganelli pasta, which looks like penne, except garganelli is a wrapped pasta, so you can see the seam. But, good luck finding garganelli at the grocery store, so I use penne instead.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Fresh Oregano, minced
Fresh Thyme, minced
Asparagus, cut into 1.5-inch lengths
1:1 Ratio of Heavy Cream and ½ and ½
A Shitload of Hard Italian Cheese—typically Parmesan or Romano—grated
Using a paper towel, pat the ham steak until the excess water is gone. Trim the fat and bone from the ham steak. Then cut into cubes that are roughly ½ inch in size.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the basil pesto, oregano and thyme in the olive oil until fragrant. Add the garlic, ham steak, mushrooms, asparagus, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is bright green.
Now, there are two ways to do this next step: the lazy way and the right way. Normally, I go with the right way, but it was late and I was hungry so I went with the lazy way. First, the right way:
In a separate pot, heat the cream and ½ and ½ on medium until steaming but not boiling, stirring frequently to keep the liquid from scorching. Add the grated cheese and stir constantly until the sauce thickens and the cheese is suspended in the cream. Then add to the sauteed ham and vegetable mixture.
Now, the lazy way:
Throw all that shit in the pot and stir until the sauce thickens. It’s harder to get the cheese to melt evenly this way so the sauce will be a bit runnier than if you do it the right way, but if you’re hungry I promise you will not care.
Serve over al dente penne with a slice of toasted sourdough bread.
Names for this dish will be accepted in the comments. The winner will have bragging rights.