Saturday dinner: Baked ziti with prosciutto

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From time to time, you encounter a recipe with a direction that you know is wrong. When it comes from a website like, say, this one, it’s probably okay to make your adjustment. I don’t have a test kitchen or a paid staff of trained chefs that are preparing these meals for publication. It’s just me and my Canon DSLR at work.

For me, when it’s Bon Appetit, I’ll err on the side of caution and make the adjustment. I’ve been burned too many times with their under-or over-estimated cooking times and mismeasured ingredient levels. But, when it’s CHOW, I follow the rules. The recipes there have never let me down.

So, when I saw this recipe call for an entire quart of heavy cream, I thought about it for a second and proceeded to heat the entire quart. In hindsight, I should have made the adjustment. It’s one thing to have too much marinata in a baked pasta dish. It’s an entirely different thing when your baked ziti comes out swimming in cream sauce:

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This is what the dish looks like in an apparent alternate universe:

Impossible. This dish is fine, even with the excess liquid, but there’s no possible way this was made with 4 cups of heavy cream.

IMG_2363WHAT WORKED: The gruyere. It’s a nice diversion from the run-of-the-mill cheddars that often dot dishes like these.

WHAT DIDN’T: The cream. Cut it in half.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “Is it swimming in all of that cream on purpose?”

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: It might. I might try it with a Mexican cheese and serrano ham next time, just for fun.

IMG_2370Baked ziti with prosciutto
From CHOW.com

  • 1 lb. dried ziti or other tubular pasta
  • 10 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated through the large holes of a box grater (about 4 1/4 cups) 
  • 1 qt. heavy cream (4 cups)
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut widthwise into 1/2-inch-thick ribbons
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain and reserve.

IMG_2366Meanwhile, pour heavy cream in a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add all but a handful of the cheese, and stir until melted. Add a pinch of nutmeg, stir in the pasta and prosciutto, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

IMG_2367In a large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, softened butter, garlic, thyme, and cheese, and rub together with your fingers until evenly incorporated and no visible chunks of butter remain. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

IMG_2368Transfer pasta mixture to a 2 1/2 – quart ceramic or glass casserole dish and top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes.

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