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Mediterranean Pasta with Rosemary Scented Prosciutto

Today I bring to you one of our very favorite pasta dishes…

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Mediterranean Pasta with Rosemary Scented Prosciutto. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? At our house it’s only ever been called, “Jenny’s Pasta,” because we discovered it while visiting my sister, Jennifer. We drove in from out of state along with other family members and one night, after a day out with all the parents and kids, my sister offered to make dinner. She said all she needed to do was stop by the grocery store for a box of pasta. Of course, I was thinking, what could she be making for our large group where she needed only one box of pasta?!? I mean besides just pasta. One box of pasta. jennys-pasta-04

When we arrived at her house and everyone piled out of the caravan of cars, she put me to work tearing up a bag of baby spinach leaves. Then she took some container out of the refrigerator that had some cooked tomato concoction in it and threw it in a pan to warm up. She put water on to boil for the pasta.  Meanwhile, her husband was chatting it up with mine while he sautéed some prosciutto with bits of fresh rosemary in the pan.

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When the pasta was done, it was tossed into a very large serving bowl with the spinach, the tomatoes, the prosciutto and some feta cheese and probably a few other secret things. She put out some side dishes to round out the meal, but the pasta bowl was the star of the show.  As I started serving it up to the kids and adults, I was being very careful with portion sizes, trying to insure that it would stretch to fit our group. I shouldn’t have been worried because every time the bowl got about half full, my sister would pull out another mystery container from the fridge, warm it up and add it to the pasta. I know that sounds kind of random and maybe not so exciting but each one seemed to hold some delicious vegetable mixture. With every addition, the pasta took on new flavors and everyone kept coming back to taste what it had evolved into. I was completely astounded at this ever delicious never ending bowl of pasta we kept dipping into. Needless to say, my worries about there being enough food for our group were unfounded. Somehow everyone was stuffed when we were done. jennys-pasta-06

My husband and I talked about the magic pasta for days and while you couldn’t really jot down a recipe for it, I asked my sister how she prepped the tomato mixture, determined to replicate at least one of the stages of that delicious pasta dish when we got home.  Once we figured out a recipe for it, I think we made it every other week for the rest of that summer. Really. It was crazy. To this day, it is still one of our most frequent go to dinners.  I love the sweetness of the tomatoes and heartiness of the beans, the freshness of the spinach and basil, balanced with the salty feta and savory prosciutto.  It makes a lot and feeds our family of four twice and then some. And while leftover pasta isn’t always ideal, this one holds up quite nicely and gives me a night off from cooking on day two (bonus!)  I’ve made it so often now that I can multi-task my way through it in about 30 minutes. So you have some catching up to do.

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Better get started.

Mediterranean Pasta with Rosemary Scented Prosciutto

Servings 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry penne pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 large clove of garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 15 ounce can white beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 4 ounces prosciutto based on your preference
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 6 ounce container crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 6 ounce bag baby spinach leaves torn in smaller pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons creamy Greek feta dressing I prefer Seeds of Change Greek Feta Vinaigrette
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. When it comes to a boil, salt the water to taste and add the pasta, cooking according to directions.
  3. While you're waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Place one or two slices of prosciutto (or as many as you can fit in a single layer) in the pan with a pinch of the chopped fresh rosemary. The slices will bubble up quickly. Cook for about 30 seconds on each side, or until hot, lightly browned in places and a bit crispy on the edges. Continue with the balance of the prosciutto adding olive oil and rosemary as needed with each batch. Drain on paper towels and chop finely. Set aside.
  4. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil, then halved tomatoes, minced garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until tomatoes begin to soften, but still maintain their shape.
  5. Add salt, pepper and the 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon of sugar to your taste.
  6. Add the rinsed and drained can of white beans to the tomato mixture and cook over medium heat until heated through. Keep warm on low heat while pasta finishes cooking. If your tomato mixture begins to dry out, add some of the hot pasta water from the pasta pot to bring it back.
  7. Before you drain your cooked pasta, save a cup or two of the pasta water.
  8. In a large serving bowl, layer in this order: Greek dressing, hot drained pasta, torn spinach leaves, hot tomato mixture (this will help wilt the spinach,) feta cheese, prosciutto, chopped fresh basil.
  9. Toss to mix thoroughly. Add a couple spoonfuls of pasta water if the mixture seems to need some added moisture. Serve.

Recipe Notes

*Save any extra pasta water for leftovers, which can be warmed in the microwave.

*Just add a few spoonfuls of pasta water and reheat the mixture.

*Any creamy Greek Feta dressing will work fine, sometimes I use Trader Joe's and just add a pinch of sugar to it. The dressing does make a difference though, so don't leave it out.

*A tablespoon of sugar may seem like a lot for the tomatoes, but it never comes out too sweet (for me) for the dish.

*We used to use 2 ounces of prosciutto, but everyone loves that part, so we've doubled it, but 2 ounces works fine if you don't want as much in your dish.

*The recipe is easily halved for a smaller yield.

Recipe from The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2014