Monday, November 7, 2011

Shells with Prosciutto and Basil Cream Sauce

It’s pesto making time at our house -- that annual mad dash to gather the basil that has been lovingly cared for all season before it gets hits by frost, and turn it into something marvelous.  The kitchen is so fragrant with the freshness of the newly-picked basil that I could almost swoon.  There are many recipes for pesto, and I’m sure you have a favorite of your own.  Not being a fan of pine nuts, I use walnuts in my recipe, as shown below.  But don’t think of pesto as only a dish in itself.  It makes a wonderful addition to other recipes, enhancing and freshening the flavors of soups and stews (incredible in Minestrone!), and added to a simple béchamel sauce makes for a wonderful pasta starter dish or main meal.

We had this for dinner with a side salad and crusty roll.  Quick and easy for everyday, yet elegant to serve for company.

Shells with Prosciutto and Basil Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 teaspoons homemade pesto*
4 handfuls shell pasta (I used conchiglie rigate)
3 very thin slices good prosciutto, cut into strips (as well as you can)

In medium stock pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add salt, if desired, and cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, melt ½ tablespoon unsalted butter and “frizzle” prosciutto (sauté until it becomes curled and fragrant).  Set aside.  In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour, pepper, salt, and nutmeg and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened. stirring occasionally.  Stir in pesto.  At this point your pasta should be cooking, so drain it (not too well) and add it to the pot with the cream sauce, stir in prosciutto, and serve.

This recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending upon how many people you want to serve.  We had this as a main dish for two and this amount of ingredients worked out perfectly.

*Basil-Walnut Pesto
   2 cups packed basil leaves
   1/3 cup good olive oil
   1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (substitute pine nuts if you prefer)
   2 cloves minced garlic
   1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
   2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, room temperature
   1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Place basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Add Parmesan and butter (if using) and pulse  until incorporated.
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~~louise~~ said...

I'm not much of a pasta fan except, when there's pesto involved! And of course, in this case, Prosciutto is the icing on the cake!

Thanks for sharing, Patti...

Vanessa Coppa said...

This looks delicious! I'm a huge fan of prosciutto, so would like to give this recipe a try.

Kathleen said...

That sounds wonderful! What could be bad with those ingredients!
I wanted to send you an email, but you have a no reply blogger addy.
About the Pfaltzgraff leaf plates in my post...
We used to have a pfaltzgraff clearance outlet. Not an outlet, there was one of those too. A few doors down there was a Clerance outlet. I would find amazing bargains there.
The pitcher in that post was from there and I paid .96 cents for it! I grabbed a few and gave them away.
One time I got place settings for .96 cents. Funky pattern, birds of paradise, but fun to play with!
I grabbed those leaf plates, and a bunch of covered acorn bowls in a few colors. Good glass bargains too! But sadly all the stores closed down!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Scrumptious! And just the sound of basil walnut pesto just makes my mouth water. YUM!



SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

My poor basil was leggy and pathetic long before our first frost. I going to try and grow some from seed for the winter and see what happens. This is a mouth-watering way to use it!

Janet Rudolph said...

Wow.. this looks like real shells from the ocean... can't wait to make it. Easy, too! Next time I'm at the Beacg :-)

Michelle B said...

I think I might be in love with this dish. It has all the right things! Never thought to add pesto to a cream sauce (duh!).

Visiting from Tasty Tuesday.