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Tomato Cream Sauce with Peas and Prosciutto (a.k.a. Love Pasta)

May 11, 2010

Tomato Cream Sauce with Prosciutto and Peas

Just over one year ago, my sister Cecilia, graduated from Seton Hall with her Masters Degree.  She and her roommates coordinated a dinner for the group of us at a place in South Orange.  The meal was awesome, but the real shining star (aside from my sister’s accomplishments, of course) was a delicious pasta dish served with a perfect homemade tomato sauce with peas.  That sauce was SO good — and I’m pretty sure I talked about it for the rest of the evening, onto the next day and then with Marc for weeks to come.  I’ve tried to recreate this dish with frozen peas, but as any pea enthusiast will tell you — there’s nothing that is going to taste as good as the real thing.

Thus began the pea-longing that I’ve suffered through privately for long and dreary months.  I said to Marc that as soon as the peas came back in full force — I wanted this sauce.  Thankfully, it’s Spring and Spring means peas.  I knew that this week was going to be the week.

Since I had to work late today, I had the luxury of coming home to this meal already cooked and already on the stove.  I can’t walk you through the method of this dish, but Marc will take over at this point, to share with you how to make this dish.  Seriously, stop what you’re doing and make this.  It might be tedious, it might seem pointless to make your own sauce or what-have-you, but one bite of this delectable dish, you will know what I mean.  AND if you make this dish for your partner — let me tell you, they will be VERY grateful.  😉  They may even shower you with hugs and kisses — Marc can attest to that!

Truly, I can! It was very nice to greet my wife with a lovely kiss (after the requisite tasting of course) for having worked so hard on this sauce tonight. Let me tell you, this was no exercise in frugality, nor was it an exercise in low-fat cooking. The sauce reminded me of my growing up in the 80s and 90s, when Vodka sauce, a tomato-cream pasta sauce, was ubiquitous.  When Elysabeth asked for a tomato-cream sauce with fresh peas, I knew that this was the direction to go!

On my way home from work today, I stopped at our friendly neighborhood gourmet market, Dave’s Fresh Pasta. From Dave’s I picked up a pound of fresh pappardelle pasta, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, some Italian sun-dried tomato paste, and 4 thick (like, 1/4″) slices of domestic prosciutto. Elysabeth picked up the peas, Parmesan, cream, garlic and onions during her grocery run for the week while I was in NYC and tonight I put it all together. Please take care as you make this, and be sure to choose high quality ingredients to let the flavors shine.

Tomato Cream Sauce with Peas and Prosciutto (Serves 4)

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh shelled green peas (frozen is ok)
  • 2 thick slices prosciutto (about 1/2 lb), diced into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 small onion, very finely minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. fresh long pasta, such as papardelle or fettuccine
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil over low-medium heat and add the diced prosciutto. Stir occasionally for 5 minutes as the color turns darker and the fat renders out slightly. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until onion is soft. Do not let garlic burn.
  2. Add tomato paste to pot and turn heat up to medium. Stir frequently and cook for 4-5 minutes or until tomato becomes fragrant. Add wine and scrape bottom of pot to loosen anything stuck to the bottom. Turn heat up to medium-high and boil until wine is almost evaporated.
  3. Squish whole tomatoes in your fingers tightly and add to sauce along with their liquid and the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, add sugar and tarragon, cover and let cook for 30 minutes or more.
  4. Uncover pot, and either using a stick blender or a tabletop blender in batches blend the sauce until the tomatoes are smooth and the meat is only slightly cut up. Simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn the heat on the sauce down to the lowest it can go, and stir in the cream. Working very slowly (1/8 of the cheese at a time), stir in the grated cheese so that it melts before the next amount goes in. Add the peas, and stir occasionally as you prepare the pasta.
  6. Bring a large pot full of salty water to a boil, and cook pasta until just al dente. This should be about 2 minutes for the fresh pasta and 1-2 minutes short of the box time for dried pasta (taste often). Using tongs or a pasta spoon, add pasta directly to sauce, and add about 1 tbsp. of pasta water into the sauce as well. Stir to combine and cut heat. Let sit for about 3-4 minutes, and then serve immediately into deep bowls. Pass additional grated cheese if desired.

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