Pasta dish takes terror out of sudden entertaining


May 22, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Some of the most dreaded words in the English language in dual-income household are, "Honey, I'm bringing so and so (the boss, a client, etc.) home for dinner tonight."

Whether "honey" is a male or female cook, the sudden announcement of a dinner guest is an equal opportunity headache.

A good solution comes from Michael Dresser, Sun wine columnist, who often brings visiting winemakers home for dinner so he can sample their wines without too much time away from his family. His wife, Sheila, who also works full-time as an editor, never flinches at one of these visits because the Dressers have solved their after-work dinner problems with a quick, tasty and easy-to-make dish -- angel hair pasta with prosciutto and pine nuts.

The Fastlane Feast version has been adapted from their recipe, which they say was inspired by a salad in one of the Silver Palate cookbooks. I've changed the balance of ingredients slightly and added the extra punch of sun-dried tomatoes. Serve the pasta with a green salad and some crusty French bread. Add some lovely white wine and a store-bought dessert and you never have to fear last-minute company again.

Although you can substitute the chopped basil found in jars at the produce counter, the dish tastes best with fresh basil, a perfect fresh-from-the-home-garden ingredient for this time of year. And when you shop for the prosciutto, ask the deli person to give you a chunk (I usually ask for a half pound to have extra on hand). Slices of prosciutto are usually cut too thin

and don't provide the same intense flavor as the bigger pieces.

Items you should have in your pantry include: garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper, lettuce greens, salad

dressing and French bread.

Your 10-item-or-less shopping list should include:

* 1 package angel hair pasta, 9 ounces, found in dairy case

* 1 package sun-dried tomatoes

* 2 ounces pine nuts

* 1/4 pound prosciutto

* 1 bunch fresh basil

* French bread

) Angel hair pasta with prosciutto and pine nuts

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

1 package angel hair pasta, 9 ounces, found in dairy case

12 sun-dried tomatoes

2 to 3 cloves of garlic

1/4 pound prosciutto (ham can be substituted)

1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup pignoli, or pine nuts

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

freshly ground pepper, to taste

Put water on to boil for pasta and cook according to package directions.

Heat 1 cup water in a microwave on high for 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and reconstitute while you are doing rest of preparation.

Finely chop garlic. Roughly dice prosciutto. Then heat olive oil on medium high heat. Saute garlic and pine nuts. When pine nuts just begin to brown (they burn quickly after that), heat prosciutto. Cook for about a minute, until prosciutto is slightly toasty.

Toss pasta with basil in a large pasta bowl. Drain sun-dried tomatoes and chop into quarters. Then pour the garlic, nuts, prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes over the pasta. Mix with cheese and top with freshly ground pepper.

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