Maccheroni with Ham & Peas

This is as splendid a dish as it is easy to make. As there are just a few ingredients, you should try and use the best available. If you made your own chicken stock, use cooked ham freshly cut off a whole ham (ask your butcher for a thick slice, about 1cm), use French cream and fresh entirely white, tightly closed mushrooms, the difference will show very clearly.

BUT! If you use water and stock cubes, old shiitake mushrooms, diced luncheon meat and indifferent cream, I promise you will still get something worth eating. It’s just that kind of a dish.

Don’t eat pork? Don’t eat meat? Big cubes of lightly smoked salmon, or diced fennel bulb or celeriac will work well. You could try shiitake mushrooms or smoked chicken. Let your imagination run wild!

Before you start, remember that you are not making a thick cream sauce. That is not the idea of the dish. It should almost be a light cream broth, just a little thicker. Depending on the quality of your pasta, it will thicken the sauce for you. In general, the better the pasta, the “rougher” the outside texture, so it absorbs more moisture, i.e. taste. You can roughly tell by the colour of the pasta. the more yellow, the smoother, the more white-ish, the rougher.

makes 2 portions exactly

  • 50g white button mushrooms
  • 1/2 small brown onion
  • 10g butter (2/3 for the onion and mushrooms & 1/3 for the ham and peas)
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 pinch dried rosemary
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • 25ml white wine (if you have it)
  • 300ml light chicken stock
  • 100g diced cooked ham
  • 100g frozen baby peas
  • 160-180g maccheroni, depending on your greed

Cut the mushrooms and onion into small dice, of just chop them.
Heat the butter in a saucepan and sweat the onions at medium heat for 3 minutes. Don’t let them brown!
Add the mushrooms and sweat for another minute or two, then add the tiniest pinch of salt.
Add the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary and fry for another minute.
Pour in the wine and let it evaporate, then pour in the chicken stock.
Simmer until it has reduced by about half, then pour in the cream.
Bring back to a simmer and reduce by about one third, or until the sauce has thickened lightly.
Strain the mushrooms and onions out. Keep the sauce, throw the solids away.
Rinse out your saucepan, add the rest of the butter and fry the ham in it for a minute.
Add the frozen peas and stir to mix, then add in the sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and just keep the sauce there until your pasta is boiled.
Bring a pot of water to the boil, add a tablespoon of salt and boil the pasta for about 6 minutes (follow the instructions on the packet, every brand is different, but try it every now and again). Your pasta should be just slightly harder than you want it to be, because the hot cream will give it another 30 seconds worth of cooking. Read the “Hausfrauen Ratschlag” for more tips.
Divide the drained pasta into two soup or pasta plates, spoon the sauce on top, don’t be shy about it, make the noodles swim in it.
Serve with cheese and pepper on the side. I like to serve it as is, completely without garnish, because I think it really doesn’t need anything else.

NOTE: If you can’t be bothered to strain the onions and mushrooms out, don’t. Just add in the ham and peas without first frying them. You’ll still be fine.

Hausfrauen Ratschlag*:

This is a fantastic dish to prepare in advance and then just finish last minute, so here are a few tips on how to get the best results with the least effort.

Don’t worry about the skin that may form on top – It will just stir back in, because there is no flour or other starch in the sauce to turn it into a solid layer.

Making the sauce in the morning to eat for lunch – Don’t add the peas until you reheat the sauce. Defrost the peas or at least make sure they are not in one big stuck-together icy lump, then add them once the sauce has reheated. You can leave the sauce out in the pot on the stove top. In fact you should not put it into the chiller, or it will turn into a jelly and reheating it will be all that much harder. It won’t spoil, I promise.

Making the sauce a day (or even two) in advance – Now you do have to chill it. Again, leave the peas out, store the sauce in a container, not in the pot and when you want to reheat it, add 3 Tbsp of water to an empty saucepan and then put the jellied sauce in. Heat on low heat for as long as it takes. Don’t rush it.

Cooking the pasta in advance – Yup, it can be done! But you need to boil your pasta for 2 minutes less than your desired eating consistency. Trust me and err on the side of firmness. Drain pasta as you normally would (meaning with a bit of water coating it) and put in a big bowl. Stir about until it has cooled a little. Leave it be, then stir again before you put it into the chiller. When you want to eat, reheat the sauce, chuck the pasta right into it and let it come back to a simmer. Add the peas halfway through and your dish is good as new!

Happy the Hausfrau who has leftovers – The dish, noodles and all, keeps very well in a properly cold chiller (that’s around the 3 degree centigrade) for at least 3 days, but I trust it for a week. Don’t try and reheat, because the noodles will be horrible. Add an egg for every three tablespoons of leftover, salt lightly and either fry it in a pan and attempt to flip it over, or fry in a dish and then chuck it into the oven. You are looking for the thickness of a quiche.

* That’s German for Hausfrau Advice.

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