The Secretly-Easy Pasta Everyone Thinks Is Fancy

chelsea-on-phone

Among the many reasons I absolutely love restaurant-going, and will never give it up as part of a money-saving challenge, is “stealing my favorite recipes for home use.” Some of my most beloved home dishes have come from restaurants, and it’s all the more important when you no longer live in the same city (or country) as the restaurant in question. No matter how much I miss my old stomping grounds, I will have these little pieces that I can make whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, and in need of a good meal.

One of those restaurants is Al Caratello in Paris, just west of Montmartre. It’s the kind of homey Italian places that serves pasta on absurdly-big plates, shaves huge curls of salty cheese over everything, and whose understated decor translates to low wine prices and an at-home feel. I make it a point to go every time I’m back, and even when I lived there, I would make my favorite dish on the menu — the Rigatoni Coppa — for myself.

After having gone on this most recent trip, I came home realizing I hadn’t made it since I’d been in the States, and that that is extremely sad. I also had most of the ingredients on hand. (I usually make it with penne, but didn’t have any, which is fine because any medium-to-big, ridged pasta will do. I used shells in this case.) So we had it for lunch at TFD HQ today, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, Lauren’s reaction was the reaction this pasta always gets: “OMG” at the visual of it, and then “OMG” at the taste. If you need a go-to dish that looks and feels incredibly impressive (and delicious), but is painfully easy to make, this is your dish. Make it for guests, a date, or even just yourself because #YouDeserveIt.

I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Pasta With Vodka Sauce, Prosciutto & Arugula

ingredients-on-table

Total Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Total Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Makes: 4 small servings, or 2 large ones

You will need:

-2/3 box pasta like penne, rigatoni, or in this case, shells. Just needs to be not-small, and ridged or twisted, to absorb #DatSauce
-2 cups quality jarred arrabiata sauce (get that Ragu out of here, and out of your kitchen forever, while we’re at it)
-1/2 cup vodka (any brand is fine)
-2/3 cup heavy cream
-1/2 cup pecorino or aged parmesan, grated (plus a little to slice on top of the finished product)
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
-1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (optional, if you like it spicy, which I very much do — I think it goes really nicely with the rest of the dish)
-1 pack prosciutto, thinly sliced (need about eight super-thin slices)
-4 cups arugula
-Salt & Pep

This recipe, I promise, could not be easier:

Start by boiling your pasta in salted water until it’s about a minute under how cooked you’d ultimately like it.

Meanwhile, put your red sauce in your largest pan, add your vodka, and bring to a boil for a few minutes, or until the vodka taste is completely gone, then reduce to a simmer. (Vodka serves to cut the acidity of things like tomatoes and make the sauce super-creamy.) Add your red pepper and your optional chili sauce, as well as a few cracks black pepper. Stir. (I encourage you to not salt this dish while cooking, because the cheese and prosciutto are both very salty.)

Add your cream, stir well to incorporate, then add your 1/2 cup cheese and a 1/4 cup pasta water, bring to a boil again, and then reduce to a simmer and stir until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce has a lovely, creamy consistency. (Hard cheeses like this take a bit to melt down fully.)

Once your pasta is done, simply add your pasta to the sauce along with another 1/4 cup of the pasta water, and stir it all together for 2-3 minutes to thoroughly combine, until every little pasta is soaking in its own lovely jacuzzi of vodka sauce.

pasta-in-pan

To assemble, simply layer your pasta, then your prosciutto, then your arugula, topped with the flaked cheese, as seen below:

step-1

step-2

plate

texture

Et voilà, you’re ready to serve! (And it’s important to note that you eat this with a knife and fork, making sure to get a forkful of all three components with each bite.) It’s a simple, delicious, utterly-impressive dish that took approximately zero work, and utilizes a good jar of red sauce to do all the hardest parts for you. Call me Semi-Homemade with Chelsea Fagan, but I am always into a dish that seems like I worked way harder on it than I did.

Enjoy!

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  • Alyssa

    This looks amazing! I never thought to add Sambal Oelek to any other cuisine than Asian, but this makes complete sense. Saving this to my Pinterest!

  • jdub

    My entire mouth filled with saliva just reading this. Officially added to the arsenal.

    • chelseafagan

      <3

  • Christine

    Makin’ this TONIGHT!

    • chelseafagan

      I want a follow-up!!

  • GemNoelle

    Looks great! Questing my entire life for never making spicy vodka sauce. Disappointed to see jarred sauce used period (regardless of the brand it is never the same as homemade) but I get that you wanted to make this accessible to people who may not be big cooks.

    • I cook a lot, but I can’t think of a situation where I would ever make my own sauce even though I know it’s not technically that hard. It’s just not important to me, maybe because I grew up on the jarred stuff? So this feels much more accessible to me, but I bet you could totally level it up by starting the sauce from scratch! (And then invite me over to help eat it haha)

      • Summer

        Same. I’m all for starting with a quality jarred sauce and then “pimping” it with additional ingredients to suit the dish.

  • bwalker

    If I was ever invited to a fancy dinner and they were to serve me pasta….I would be very much insulted

  • Erin

    Chelsea. I made this tonight and the sounds my boyfriend made while eating it said it all.

    This was incredible and SO simple to make. Definitely going in the recipe arsenal, thank you ma’am!

    *Homemade sauce snob approved.

  • hanbanjo

    I made this last night (while I was pretty inebriated) for my boyfriend and my good friend. It was simple, easy, and totally amazing. Please post more recipes!

  • vitadulcis

    Do you think it’s okay to substitute chili garlic sauce for Sriracha?

    • They’re similar flavors! Chili garlic will be better, but sriracha will add the same kick 🙂

  • Curious — how much does this recipe end up per serving?