Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic

I love garlic, I adore garlic, I cook with absolutely loads of garlic like today’s recipe for Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic. I could actually employ a full-time garlic peeler, knee deep in discarded garlic husks. A manager I worked with regularly joked I could not cook a dish without garlic, cream, and alcohol, including the desserts.*

But here is a but – I LOATH BURNT GARLIC. I jump up, gesticulate, shout and scream at the number of cookery programs where poor, innocent, sweet, comely garlic is tossed into woks and pans of smoking hot oil.** I am pretty certain every single person who utters the frankly unbelievable phrase ‘ it doesn’t have garlic in it does it, I really don’t like garlic ‘ is the result of a traumatic exposure to such cooking travesties. Burnt garlic is a cheek sucking, eye-watering experience, an awful culinary disgrace.

Hence a recipe for roasted garlic, I swear all the disbelievers could be converted with this delicious way of cooking garlic. The slow roasting with just a little oil highlights the natural sweetness and tempers any harsh raw flavours. I first encountered roasted garlic when I worked as a manager at the Bel and the Dragon, Cookham served with rustic, crusty bread and olives and olive oil, the garlic squeezed out and spread on the bread as a kind of pungent pate. Wow!

I keep some roasted garlic cloves covered in oil in the refrigerator now handy for lots of cooking especially this simple full flavoured lunch or supper dish recipe Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic. Post the Christmas and Boxing Day excesses I think it is nice to have something really tasty and easy to cook. The Parma ham and roasted garlic can be cooked in the last few minutes of your pasta cooking. The chilli provides a little bite but is not there to overpower this wonderful dish, however, if you want to add a little extra go for it, one of the joys of cooking is experimenting. Enjoy.

*The garlic cream rum babas were perhaps a little ahead of their time.
** Just add the garlic later during the cooking process when the heat is lowered or with more ingredients that dissipate the heat.

Spaghetti with Parma Ham.JPG

Spaghetti with Parma Ham and Roasted Garlic serves 4

50 to 65 gr Spaghetti per person ( I grab a generous handful but I’m greedy )

2 large heads of roasted garlic ( see below )

16 slices Parma Ham

1 small to medium Chilli, de-seeded and very thinly sliced

6 to 8 tablespoons quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A small handful of curly Parsley, thoroughly washed, dried and chopped

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

½ a Lemon

for the roasted garlic

Garlic Bulbs

Olive oil

A few sprigs of Rosemary and Thyme

Sea Salt and roughly ground Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C/ Gas mark 6. Remove the tops of the garlic bulbs, place on to a baking tray. Sprinkle liberally with olive oil, the herbs and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for twenty-five to thirty minutes until the bulbs are soft. Cool and squeeze out as required.

For the Spagehetti

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook for eight to ten minutes until ‘ al dente ‘ or with just a little bite left in the pasta. The old student technique of seeing if sticks to the wall is not necessary, just remove a little of the spaghetti and bite between your front teeth. While the pasta is cooking gently heat the olive oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed frying pan. Add the chilli and garlic, sauté for two minutes. Add the ham and season, cook for a minute. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and stir in the parsley. Drain the spaghetti and stir thoroughly into the frying pan, ensuring all the spaghetti is coated with the oil, chilli and parsley mix. Plate and serve with a little extra chopped parsley.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour     Eggs

Please see the Allergens Page


My perfect Valentine’s Supper

My perfect Valentine’s Supper is as I am sure you could guess would be with my partner Susan. This year, unfortunately, we cannot be together, but when we do get the chance to sit down to eat together what would I cook? Well we both like pasta so a nice Italian style menu perhaps, a plate of anti-pasta to share, a rich Ragu or Bolognese sauce on the pasta and a light Zabaglione for dessert. Pasta it is then and when I first started to cook it the dish would be Spaghetti Bolognese as favoured by so many high street chains and local trattorias.

Slow-cooked Beef Ragu.jpg

But as I have developed and learnt about different cuisines, I can tell you this popular dish would be heresy in Bologna where the sauce originates from. Spaghetti Bolognese was probably created by Italian emigrants in the USA just like the creation of the Chinese dish General Tso’s Chicken. You see in Italy there are centuries of tradition and some very complex rules about pasta. Each shape is clearly defined and registered and suits a type of sauce or dish, your Bolognese coats and lubricates Rigatoni or Penne pasta, creating little pockets of meat and sauce, Spaghetti is best suited to lighter coatings maybe a recipe like Con Vongole with clams, a little garlic, oil and parsley. So for my authentic pasta, I am going to use Fettuccini and make a delicious slow-cooked ( ideal in fact for a slow cooker ) shin of beef ragout.

Fettuccini with slow-cooked Shin of Beef Ragu                                serves 4 to 6

1.2 kg Beef Shin brisket, cut into six to eight pieces,

( ask you butcher to cut up the Shin, it will be easier for him and to give you the bone )

2 large White Onions, peeled and very finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and very finely diced

4 sticks of Celery, washed and very finely diced

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

1 bottle of good Italian Red Wine

500 ml good quality Beef Stock

100 ml quality Olive Oil

2 tablespoons of Tomato Puree

1 tablespoon of dried Oregano

3 Bay Leaves

½ teaspoon dried Thyme

½ teaspoon ground Nutmeg

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black pepper

 

500 gr Tagliatelli or other pasta of choice ( pappardelle is ideal)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley, washed and finely chopped

In a large heavy-bottomed pan heat half of the olive oil over medium to high heat, season the beef and sear each piece on all sides until well browned, then set aside on a plate. Turn the heat down and add the remaining olive oil, add the onion, celery and carrots and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes*, then repeat with the tomato puree, stirring continuously to prevent burning. Return to beef to the pan and any juices and add all the remaining ingredients then bring up to a simmer, then turn it down to the lowest possible setting.

Cover the pan and let it cook for three to four hours until the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Remove the lid and let it cook for a further thirty minutes until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.

Remove the sauce from the heat and transfer the   beef from the sauce into a large bowl. Shred the beef with two forks and return it to the sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and keep warm.

*Celery and carrots sautéed with the onions and garlic is called “soffritto” in Italian cooking. It is a very traditional base for many Italian dishes.

 To Serve

Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet. You can reserve a little cooking liquid and toss the strained pasta, ragu and pasta water together or simply spoon the ragu on top of the cooked pasta. Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and garnish with chopped parsley.