Orange You Glad...

Often, my menu choices are inspired by curiosity about a given recipe. I routinely find myself asking, "Does that flavor pairing really work?" or "Could I handle that complicated technique?" Often, I begin cooking with a sense of, "Well, this will either be brilliant or terrible." For the most part, I've had fairly good luck with the thirty or so new dishes I've tried since we moved a little over two months ago (time flies, doesn't it?), despite the skepticism about my recipe choices voiced from such critics as my mother, who frequently questions the unusual flavor combinations to which I am drawn. 

Tonight, I was moved to try a recipe that seemed so odd, even I had serious doubts. It called for pasta in a simple cream sauce flavored with prosciutto and, of all things, orange. I had never heard of such a paring, but I spotted it in a Bon Appetit article about the Emilia-Romagna, the region of Italy that is home to Bologna and Ravenna, both of which I visited last fall when I was traveling with Dad. Considering how exceptionally well we ate in both cities, I figured this seemingly odd recipe couldn't be all bad, so I filed it away for another time. 

This recipe finally moved to the front of the queue today because I had a Groupon for Fox and Obel (my favorite gourmet food shop in Chicago) that was getting ready to expire next week. I couldn't come up with any truly extravagant purchases I wanted to make there, so I decided to stock up on a few expensive and/or hard-to-find ingredients to round out some of the recipes that had been lingering on my to-do list. There was high-quality Parmesan cheese, golden syrup, imported from England, for a few British desserts I've had my eye on, maple sugar for more of my beloved macadamia-maple sticky bars, and pricey Italian charcuterie to make both this pasta dish and a pizza with pancetta that I'm planning to make tomorrow. It was an odd assortment of items, but the Groupon gave me a chance to experiment with some ingredients that otherwise would have been beyond our budget right now.

Ultimately, I'm really glad that I snapped up that Groupon months ago, because both Justin and I loved this pasta dish. I'm going to start keeping an eye out for prosciutto on sale at our regular grocery store, because we'd both like to make this dish a staple around here. It was incredibly quick to put together -- probably about six minutes of effort all together, outside of boiling the pasta water. The sauce may have been cream-based, but the citrus notes from the orange made it feel light and refreshing. The salty prosciutto was balanced by the acidity and sweetness from the oranges, and the whole dish was mellowed by the presence of cream. It was truly perfect, and an excellent weeknight meal. I can't recommend this one enough!

Fettucine with Prosciutto and Orange
adapted from Bon Appetit

12 oz. fettuccine (preferably fresh)
2 tablespoon. unsalted butter
2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 1" pieces
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute before al dente, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta, longer for dried. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto; sauté until browned, about 3 minutes. 

Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of zest, and cream; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divide among warm bowls. Sprinkle remaining orange zest over pasta.

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