I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago who said that he and his wife eat out a lot because they have a hard time knowing where to start in the kitchen. I think this is a pretty common problem and one that I would love to help out with. In fact, that is sort of the point of this entire website.
My friend pointed out that even though my posts are thorough and look easy, some are maybe a bit too difficult for a starter cook. This is a good point. To try to help with this, I made a new category on Macheesmo called Quick and Easy. This is where I will tag how-to posts and simple dishes.
For this post, I thought I would make a classic, simple dish that is delicious and easy: Linguine with a cream sauce.
In my college years, I spent a summer with a friend wondering around Argentina and we ate this a few times a week without fail. It takes minutes to make, is super filling, and you can substitute ingredients like crazy.
1) Add butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in minced shallots and bacon (or other cured meat). Let cook until bacon starts to crisp and shallots are soft, about 6-7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
2) Add a cup of cream to the pan and bring it to a light simmer. Stir and let reduce.
3) Cook pasta according to package in heavily salted water (1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water).
4) When pasta is done, immediately add it to cream sauce and stir to combine. The cream sauce should just hold onto the pasta. If it's very thick, add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the sauce. If it's too thin, let it simmer a bit to reduce further.
5) Serve pasta immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.
For this version, I had a shallot sitting around and some prosciutto left over from my chicken saltimbocca. I gave both ingredients a quick chop and added them to a large sautee pan with 2 Tablespoons of butter.
After just a few minutes the onions will start to soften and the prosciutto will start to crisp up a bit.
Keep in mind that there are a ton of things you could add to this cream sauce. These are just two that I thought of. Or you could just do cream… that is good also.
Pour in about a cup of cream and turn your heat down to low. Give it a good stir to combine everything.
N0w let’s talk about the pasta. I like linguine for this recipe because it has wide noodles which hold up well to the cream sauce. You could probably use other pastas, but that is my personal favorite.
I guess I could do an entire post on how to cook pasta, but the keys to correct pasta are:
1) A big pot.
2) Lots of water. At least a gallon for a pound of pasta.
3) A good amount of salt.
I cooked half a pound of linguine and boiled a gallon of water and probably added 1-2 tablespoons of salt. The big pot and lots of water ensures that your pasta doesn’t stick together and that it cooks evenly.
Obviously you will want to get your water boiling before you even think about starting the sauce as the sauce doesn’t take that long.
You will know your cream sauce is ready when you can do this. It should take about 4-5 minutes:
Grab your favorite pair of tongs and pull your pasta out of the water and drop it in the cream sauce. Don’t worry about the pasta water. That stuff is all flavor.
Give it a good stir to make sure everything is mixed together.
Serve immediately! This dish is best right away. Put a little, or a lot, of cheese on it and you will have a delicious, simple meal that is easy to clean up.
I used whole wheat linguine in my recipe because it is a bit healthier and you can’t really tell the difference when you coat it with cream and prosciutto flavors.
This meal and a glass of red wine is one of my favorite winter meals.
I have supreme confidence that even if you have never cooked anything but Ramen, you can make this dish. Just make sure to keep an eye on the cream sauce or it will scorch quickly.
Does anyone have any other fun additions they would add to this? Leave a comment!