Monday, April 16, 2012

Rigatoni with Bechamel and Proscuitto

One of the dishes I made for Saturday's party, I keep hearing about...  Rigatoni with Bechamel and Proscuitto, by Giada again.  A few moments ago, I was informed that one woman who had gotten some of the leftovers was on her second helping and contemplating just going and laying down in the pan.  I followed this recipe pretty closely because, well, I didn't really have a clue what I was doing.  I'm sure I sound like a rank amateur right now, but this scared the shit out of me.   BUT, if you can read directions, and follow them closely, you can totally pull this off.  I readily admit that I threw myself a little coronation when I managed to pull off the sauce on the first try, but just go slowly and you can do it.  

What you need:

1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces)
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, at room temperature
Pinch fresh nutmeg
Sea salt and white pepper
1 cup grated fontina
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, julienned
1 pound dry rigatoni
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Remain calm:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Right now, go throw the fontina in the freezer so it is easier to grate.  ((Grating soft cheese is kind of annoying.  It gums up the grater, it gets stuck, and is a general pain in the ass.  Freezing it for about 15 minutes makes it a LOT easier.))  While that is cooling off a bit, julienne the proscuitto.  Proscuitto is, of course, the very thin, fancy ham.  ((That's the professional foodie definition.))  Separate the slices from the lining paper ((also frustrating)), pile it all together, and then cut through the pile with a very sharp knife in long, thin strips.  Repeatedly.  ((I nearly turned into a vegetarian during this process, I'm warning you.))  Pull all the little pieces apart.

Next, pull the fontina from the freezer and grate it, using a mandoline with a cheese blade if you value your skin.  Set it aside for the moment.

In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Keep an eye on it, meaning don't wander off and do something else because if it turns brown, you have to start over.  A stick of butter is a terrible thing to waste.

I hope you are rested up, because this is about to get slightly aerobic.  Add the flour to the butter and whisk until it is totally smooth, about 2 minutes.   ((I was whisking the hell out of it to get it so it wasn't lumpy.))  While continually stirring, gradually add the room temperature milk and continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy.  ((I have no clue what being room temperature has to do with it, but it was stressed a couple of times so I'm copying it.  I have to admit, I got a little squeamish about having nearly warm milk sitting on the counter.  But I figured Giada has never killed anyone that we are aware of, so go with it.))  Simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, meaning when you pull a spoon through it, the back has a layer on it that doesn't run off immediately.   This will take approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the nutmeg, the grated fontina, and prosciutto and season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts ((more or less)) of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook for about 5 minutes. The pasta will be cooked a second time in the oven, so don't be concerned that is seems really not at all done.  Drain the pasta then return it to the pot and pour in the sauce. Using a wooden spoon, mix well until all the pasta is coated with the sauce.  ((Do I have to use a wooden spoon?  Yes.  Why?  I don't know, just do it.))

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour the the whole works in.   Smooth out top and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup fontina.  Scatter the additional butter that you diced on top and bake uncovered for 25 minutes or until it is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

This didn't photograph well, but trust me, it is rich and creamy and full of delicious.

Nutritional Info:  Seriously, don't ask.


Busy, busy week around here...  2 private dinners, meeting with a doctor who is interested in partnering up to use my services and knowledge of chronic pain, food allergies, and fitness nutrition to help her patients, perhaps cooking for a grand opening Friday ((it may have to be pushed back)), filming a segment on Saturday, and getting ready for the brunch and trunk show I'm hosting on Sunday which requires a whole bunch of cooking, baking, canning, and hopefully, cleaning so I don't just do what I do now which is to apologize to everyone who walks in for how the floors look.   I know.  It's crazy.   Don't worry.  I've got it.

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