- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Movie and dinner nights are something my husband and I adore. They work like this: At the end of a long week, friends call to propose that we all go to an early movie, then eat out afterward.

That’s exactly what happened several days ago. However, instead of dining out, at my suggestion, we decided to make a quick pasta supper afterward.

Normally, I would have opted for a night out of the kitchen, but I was excited about a dish of penne topped with a delectable tomato prosciutto sauce that I had prepared at home earlier in the week. I liked it so much that I was dying to make it again, and here was my opportunity.

The sauce is prepared with sauteed onions and bits of prosciutto that are combined with diced tomatoes and seasonings of fresh rosemary, garlic and red pepper flakes. This mixture is then simmered in orange juice, white wine and chicken stock for less than 30 minutes.

The resulting sauce has a fine balance of flavors — a bit of saltiness from the prosciutto, a slight touch of heat from the pepper, sweet notes from the orange juice and tart ones from the wine. I love to serve the sauce over plump buttered penne tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but it’s equally tempting as a topping for strands of fettuccine or linguine.

The sauce doesn’t take long to assemble; count on 20 minutes, especially if you use canned diced tomatoes, as I did.

You can bring the pasta water to a boil while the tomato and prosciutto combo simmers, then cook the penne as the sauce finishes.

Our impromptu menu included a big green salad, a loaf of crusty peasant bread and a store-bought pie served with scoops of vanilla ice cream.

We all pitched in, sharing the grocery shopping and the cooking, so this was entertaining at its simplest. The movie we chose, “The Illusionist,” and our menu, which starred this special pasta, were winners.

Penne with tomato prosciutto sauce

TOMATO SAUCE:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups chopped onions (2 medium onions)

10 thin slices (about 4 ounces) prosciutto, cut or torn into ½-inch pieces

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

2 28-ounce cans diced Italian-style tomatoes, drained

1½ cups orange juice

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

PASTA AND GARNISH:

Water

Kosher salt

1 pound penne

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Orange peel and rosemary sprigs for garnish

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and prosciutto, and saute until onions are softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook and stir a minute more. Add rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt. Stir well. Then add tomatoes, orange juice, wine and stock.

Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring often, then lower heat and cook until sauce is thick and chunky, 20 to 25 minutes or longer.

Taste and season with more salt, if needed. Remove the garlic cloves and stir in the orange zest. (The sauce can be prepared a day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, when needed.)

At serving time, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until al dente, about 14 minutes or according to package directions. Drain in a colander, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Toss the pasta with butter and half of the cheese and season with salt as needed.

Mound pasta in 4 shallow bowls. Top generously with sauce, then garnish with an orange peel and a rosemary sprig. Offer remaining cheese to sprinkle over top. Makes 4 generous or 6 smaller portions.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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