This sensational recipe from Locanda di Cipriani on the tiny island of Torcello at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon, is one of my favourite pastas. According to Harry's Bar Cookbook by Arrigo Cipriani, in which a version of this recipe appears, Cipriani says that this dish is "one of the few combinations of French and Italian cuisines on our menu — the pasta and the ham are Italian; the sauce and the cooking method are French." It has become a classic of Locanda di Cipriani because everybody adores it, which is no great surprise. It is so easy to make and entirely delicious — the ultimate culinary combination.
Tagliatelle Gratinati al Prosciutto con Besciamella
3 tbsp butter
4 oz prosciutto di Parma, thick cut, cut into julienne strips
1/2 lb dried tagliatelle egg pasta
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
salt and white pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the broiler. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook it for a minute, stirring constantly. Cook the pasta in the boiling water untill al dente, then drain well in a colander. Put it in the pan with the prosciutto and toss well. Add another tablespoon of the butter, sprinkle with half the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and toss well to combine.
Spread the pasta evenly in a copper grating dish or casserole. Spoon the béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano. Cut the remaining butter in to bits and scatter over the top. Broil as close as possible to the heat source or 475°F until golden and bubbly, about 6-8 minutes, and serve immediately.