One of the tricks we have learned with gluten-free pasta: Undercook it. Italians cook their pasta al dente a solid surface with a slight bite. It seems that most Americans cook their pasta to death, to the point of flubbiness. Lets change our ways. With gluten-free pasta, its especially important to undercook, just a bit. And until we have created handmade gluten-free pasta we love, were using Tinkyada penne for this dish. It works.
When I asked the Chef to make this again, at the restaurant in the afternoon, so I could take photographs, he added a few of his own touches. Sautéed hedgehog and yellowfeet chanterelles mushrooms. Fresh mozzarella. Drizzles of aged balsamic vinegar. Oh lord, I wanted to take those photographs fast.
We shared the bowl of pasta afterward. His face told it all wide open and rubbery with excitement. It just melts, all of it together. My mouth is just filled with melty goodness. And then he made this the pasta special for the night at the restaurant.
So, you know, it works.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, fine diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
3 fat white leeks, root and green parts removed, washed and sliced thin (if the leeks are slender, use 5)
7 slices of the best prosciutto you can find
1/2 pound wild mushrooms (whatever is within reach for you)
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups cooked pasta
1 large ball fresh mozzarella
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (as aged as you can afford)
1. Simmering the leeks. Bring 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic cloves to the oil and sauté until you can smell the garlic perfume. (Be sure not to burn the garlic.) Add the thyme and cook until the herb releases its smell. Toss in the sliced leeks and stir for a few moments, until all of the slices are coated with the garlicky, herby fat. Turn down the heat to simmer. Cover the leeks entirely with all the slices of prosciutto, making sure that no steam is evaporating by the end of the process. Cover the skillet with a lid and allow the leeks to simmer for 30 minutes.
2. In a different pan, bring the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir and cook them until they have shrunk and released their juices. Set the mushrooms aside.
3. To prepare the pasta, take the pan with the leeks off the heat. Remove the prosciutto from the top of the leeks. Set those pieces aside and slice them into slivers. Put the cooked pasta into a bowl. Add the sautéed mushrooms and the caramelized leeks. Season with salt and pepper (remember that the prosciutto is salty, so you might want to go light on this one).
4. Divide the pasta into two plates. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Settle slivers of prosciutto on top of the pasta. Serve immediately.
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