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Penne with Butter and Truffle Paste

Penne al Coccio

SERVES 4

Of the short cuts of pasta, penne is preferred in Tuscany and there are endless, and easy, preparations for sauces for them. Penne al coccio is a favorite, usually made in some sort of cast iron, stovetop-to-table pan. I made this in Ralph Conte's seaside Tuscan villa kitchen and he loved it so much that he asked if it could be a special on his restaurant menu!

This is a very rich first course; the sauce is made from cream, butter and truffle paste, all the elements for a company dish. Truffle paste is available in Italian specialty stores or online on the World Wide Web.

Ingredients

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 pound thin sliced prosciutto, minced

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Grinding coarse black pepper

1 teaspoon black truffle paste

1 cup fresh peas

1 pound pasta penne

1 cup heavy cream

4 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Put the mushrooms in a dish and cover them with warm water; allow them to plump up for 25 to 30 minutes. Drain them, coarsely chop them and set aside.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large earthenware, enameled cast iron, or stainless steel sauté pan. Stir in the prosciutto and allow it to brown slightly. Stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper and allow the mixture to cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the truffle paste. Cover the pan and keep it warm over low heat.

Cook the penne al dente in 4 quarts of boiling water to which 1 tablespoon of salt has been added. Drain the penne and stir them into the sauce. Over very low heat stir in the cream and half of the cheese. The sauce should be creamy. Serve the penne directly from the pan. Pass the remaining cheese to sprinkle on top along with a grinding of black pepper.

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