Last month, while visiting my favorite butcher, Vincent’s Meat Market on Arthur Avenue, the “Little Italy” (a/k/a Belmont) of the Bronx, I spotted a prosciutto end, which is hard to come by in Falmouth. Thinking I would use it in a batch of Pasta e Fagioli, I added it to my meat order. But, last week with the sudden onslaught of summer heat and humidity, preparing a winter dish like that over a hot stove held little appeal and the thought of eating one held even less appeal.
Since the prosciutto was cured and vacuum packed, it probably would have lasted three or four more months in the refrigerator, at least until the onset of cold weather. However, each time I opened the refrigerator door it called out to me; after all that is its nature, to be eaten.
One of life’s greatest combinations is prosciutto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and basil. Put those four ingredients on a chunk of crispy Italian bread, drizzle on some olive oil and you’ve got yourself perfection. But I don’t have a meat slicer, and for inclusion in a Hero (Grinder, Sub, Hoagie or whatever its called where you come from; I’m from New York so it’s always a Hero) prosciutto sliced in any way other than paper-thin would be a sin. Besides, crispy Italian bread is a rarity in Falmouth, where most bakeries are in giant supermarkets.
That tri-color combination, red, white and green, which happens to reflect the colors of the Italian flag, is perfection itself. So what else to do with the remains of this generous little pig? When all else fails, man’s thoughts turn to…PASTA!
Now for the alchemy. First, I thought I would lightly brown the prosciutto in its own rendered fat. Then, toss the mozzarella with the hot pasta letting it melt. Finally, add the prosciutto and other ingredients, and and serve it at room temperature. The execution worked well, but for two hitches, and the meal turned out to be appetizing, but perfection was not attained. I have added some footnotes to the recipe for Summer Penne, which I intend to incorporate next time. But that will have to wait until the next butcher run.
A few days later, using the remaining bit of prosciutto, I prepared a Frittata with Peas and Herbs, which served as the keystone for a delicious Sunday Brunch.