Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paglia e fieno (straw and hay) pasta

Paglia e fieno (straw and hay) pasta
Sometimes I come across recipes in very unusual ways.

Which I totally love, because, to me, it is extra evidence of the whole small world, six degrees of separation phenomenon.

I don't think it's all just coincidence.

For example, straw and hay pasta. Yeah, sounds really appetizing, right? "Let's eat some straw and hay!" So you can believe me when I say that I was not googling "straw and hay for dinner" or anything even close to that when I stumbled upon this.

(I may have a new barn but as of yet no animals that require straw or hay: that's not how El Jefe and The Ninjette roll.)

What I was googling was Vermont food blog, to see how many, if any, other folks like me are out there. (In case you're curious, nearly none, but that's not really what this post is about. It's about straw and hay, right?)

As is the way of search engine optimization, I got some interesting results (SEO is clearly very ninja-like -- can't be explained or totally comprehended by mere mortals, ha ha ha). One that piqued my interest was a restaurant review from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).

(See what I mean about SEO? Completely bizarro.)

AJC restaurant reviewer and staffer John Kessler had posted a blog entry about some of his restaurant experiences while on a vacation this summer in the Adirondacks / Vermont / Montreal area. I was happy to read his post because he had eaten at and discussed two restaurants high on my radar: the Farm House Tap and Grill here in Burlington (which I love for not only their great food but commitment to local ingredients) and Joe Beef in Montreal (where I am freakin' dying to dine one of these days).

Long story short, Kessler described the pasta dish he ate at Joe Beef as being a riff on "paglia e fieno — i.e., 'straw and hay,' an iconic Italian pasta dish of spinach and plain fettuccine tossed with cream and prosciutto and peas."

Iconic Italian? Yet I had totally never even heard of this dish!

So I started investigating (yes, yes, I clearly spend way too much of my day googling crap, I think that's abundantly clear).

Turns out he's right. It's a traditional northern Italian dish made with two different kinds of pasta (usually tagliatelle), one plain, one green, which is what gives it the "straw and hay" monniker.

Clearly I had to give this a whirl.

Result? Italian awesomesauce -- like you would have expected anything less from something with a cheesy cream sauce and prosciutto. (I think I would have tried it even if the name was "old shoe and prosciutto with cheesy cream sauce.")

I also really liked that is was an easy dish to prepare, perfect for a quick weeknight meal or, as in my case, after you return home from a weekend trip. 

I used elements from several different recipes I found online but got the most inspiration from Karista's Kitchen. So thanks to her.

Now, hopefully, if I have played my SEO cards right, the next person that googles "Vermont food blog" might learn a little more about straw and hay ... among other things.

Paglia e fieno (straw and hay pasta) -- adapted from Karista's Kitchen

1/2 pound spinach linguine
1/2 pound regular linguine
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
large handful of sliced mushrooms
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
4 oz. proscuitto, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces pieces
1 pint light cream
2/3 cup parmesan cheese (plus more for garnishing)
salt and pepper

Cook pasta until al dente (usually about 1 minute less than what the package indicates).

While the pasta is cooking, in a saucepan heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until hot and bubbly. Add the onion and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the mushroom and garlic and cook for another few minutes.

Lower the heat a bit and add the cream. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring often. When it reaches the consistency you like, stir in the peas, proscuitto and cheese, stirring until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste (you might want to add a little dash of Tabasco, too -- yum).

Add to the cooked, drained pasta and mix gently but thoroughly.

Serve each portion topped with a little more parmesan cheese.


  1. I'm actually from Vermont too! I'm taking a year abroad in England, but I live in Burlington at the moment. Yay Vermonters! =]

  2. I'm jealous of your year abroad, Natalie -- enjoy it! And I'm in the Burlington area as well.

  3. Thanks for the mention! Made me smile you were able to glean some info from one of my recipes. Looks fabulous! Delicious Wishes, Karista

    1. Thanks for the inspiration -- and the kind words!