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Farfalle with Mascarpone: Three Wonderful Ways

Here's a basic formula with three variations for farfalle, or "bowties," cooked al dente, combined with creamy mascarpone and lustily flavored with fresh ingredients. First is a simple thyme/bread crumb treatment. The second adds peas and prosciutto to the mix. The third is a nod to the flavors of a Lombardy specialty, torta de mascarpone, which is an assembly of mascarpone, gorgonzola, basil and pignolia nuts. Each makes a fine first course or light summer supper. A good imported pasta makes a difference. Don't let it cook till mushy, do season with plenty of fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a salad of juicy summer tomatoes and arugula.

1/2 cup mascarpone
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 pound farfalle pasta
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Coarse salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spoon mascarpone into a small bowl. Mash garlic, minced, into the salt with the back of a fork. Whisk olive oil, garlic and salt mixture and pepper into the mascarpone until smooth. Set aside. Prepare your choice of flavorings (see below) and set aside.

Cook farfalle al dente, 10-12 minutes. When pasta is nearly done, warm a serving bowl by heating 1/2 cup water in it in the microwave. Drain pasta, dry serving bowl, and toss pasta in the bowl with mascarpone mixture, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the optional ingredients you have prepared.

Note: The mascarpone/pasta mixture will look more buttery than "creamy."

Version I: Thyme and Freshly Toasted Bread Crumbs

1/2 cup bread crumbs (2 slices good-quality Italian bread)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt

Using processor, coarsely grate bread. SautÚ crumbs in oil and butter until nicely browned. Remove thyme leaves from stems and chop. To serve, sprinkle crumbs, thyme and an additional pinch of coarse salt over pasta mixture.

Version II: To the pasta/mascarpone mixture, add 1 cup baby peas (frozen peas are fine) microwaved till barely tender and 1/2 cup (about 1/3 pound) slivered prosciutto, such as Parma SausageÔs prosciutto, an excellent domestic product, available at Parma Sausage in The Strip.

Version III: Omit Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and coarse salt. Substitute basil for thyme. Coarsely tear leaves to make 1/2 cup. Reserve several whole leaves. Toast 1/3 cup pignolia nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat till lightly brown. Crumble gorgonzola coarsely to make 1/2 cup. Fold the torn basil into pasta mixture. Sprinkle gorgonzola and bread crumbs on top. Garnish with whole basil leaves. Serves 2 for supper, 4 for a first course.

Thursday, July 15, 1999

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