Capellini with Ham and Bechamel Sauce

I’ve come to realize that the Sunday dinners my sister and I do are really just a nice way of saying that I act as a personal chef. A couple of weeks ago, she suggested making a bechamel sauce for some pasta. My only knowledge of it was that it is one of the four mother sauces of French cooking, and that it’s basically a cream sauce. I was making myself a chicken dish, so I didn’t care that the pasta didn’t excite me. But when we went grocery shopping, she suggested putting pancetta in. We looked around, and the closest we could find was just diced ham (which, once sauteed with a bit of salt and pepper, was not that bad), so we used that.

Upon seeing the dish as a whole, it looked strangely familiar, and it turns out my sister was having me make the dish she loves from Gina Fornarina that I find to be the biggest rip-off. It’s called “Tagliolini Gratinati With Prosciutto Cotto”, baked tagliolini pasta with ham and bechamelle sauce, which costs a whopping $15. For one serving. The amount I cooked could easily have served four and I don’t think all the ingredients even added up to that. So I got to keep my disdain for overpriced food, and Ruby got to eat her pasta. Happiness abounded.

Inspired by Gina Fornarina

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (ground nutmeg works fine)
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 pound diced ham or pancetta (you could easily swap this out for any other meat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, 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.
  3. While the sauce is cooking (or once you’ve finished, if you don’t care for multi-tasking), heat a skillet on medium heat. Once hot, add the ham/pancetta and cook until nicely browned. Remove from heat.
  4. Heat a large pot of well-salted water and bring to a boil. Cook pasta for 5 minutes or so, until cooked through (less if you like your pasta al dente).
  5. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add in the bechamel sauce and ham and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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