Though cream is the ultimate cheater's ingredient in pasta—I regularly campaign against its inclusion in pasta carbonara—somehow crème fraîche is OK in my book. Like sour cream, it has that essential tang to temper the richness, yet it's lighter, sweeter, subtler. I can't imagine myself dolloping half a cup of sour cream into a bowl of pasta, but crème fraîche in this dish with fresh spring peas turns it into a decadent dinner.
Speaking of carbonara, the idea behind this dish is really the same: creamy pasta with a punch of cured pork. The prosciutto elevates it into fancier, though no less hearty, fare. The recipe itself is easier to pull off than carbonara, which involves eggs. Here you basically combine the sauce ingredients and warm them through before adding the hot pasta and some cooking water. It took me the same amount of time as boiling and cooking the pasta.
Orecchiette with Peas, Prosciutto, and Crème Fraîche
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- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
- 8 ounces orecchiette pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced or grated
- 1 cup frozen petite peas, or fresh if in season
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- 6 slices prosciutto (3 ounces total), torn in half
- 12 small basil leaves, or 6 large ones roughly torn
Bring a large pot of salty water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occassionally to prevent sticking.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the garlic. Cook for a couple minutes until fragrant but not browned, then reduce the heat to medium and add the peas, cooking for a few seconds, then add the crème fraîche and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until warmed through.
Reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it while still wet to the skillet. Toss well with the sauce and add the pasta water to create a loose sauce. Turn the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes as the sauce melds with the pasta.
Transfer to bowls and top with any sauce left in the skillet. Lay the prosciutto and basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.