Prosciutto, the Italian word for ham, is a meat that has been seasoned, salt-cured (but not smoked), and air-dried. The best prosciutto comes from San Daniele di Friuli or from Parma. Imported prosciutto is available at most specialty shops or Italian Delis.
Parmigiano-Reggiano, a hard, dry cheese, is made from skimmed or partially skimmed cow's milk. It has a hard, pale-golden rind and a straw-colored interior with a rich, sharp flavor. Parmesan cheeses made in Argentina, Australia, and the United States cannot compare with Italy's pre-eminent Parmigiano-Reggiano, which has a granular texture that melts in the mouth. These two ingredients are most important to the success of our featured recipe, Penne al Filetto.
3 lbs ripe, plum tomatoes (cored, peeled, and seeded) or one 35 oz. can of peeled Italian, plum tomatoes (seeded and lightly crushed in their liquid)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely sliced
6 Prosciutto slices, cut crosswise into ¼ inch-wide strips
6 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lb penne
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
Pass the tomatoes through a food mill fitted with a fine disc, or crush them as fine as possible in a bowl with a wire whisk.
In a medium-size non-reactive saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and simmer until wilted. Then, add the prosciutto and wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes and half of the basil leaves. Season lightly with salt and fresh pepper, and simmer the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 45 minutes. Check the seasoning and add more salt and fresh pepper if necessary.
Bring salted water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite. Drain and return pasta to the pot. Add about 8 oz of the sauce. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats the pasta, combining grated parmesan cheese. Mix well, and transfer to individual bowls, adding the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining basil leaves. Serve immediately.