Rustic Penne Pasta with Chopped Ham


I’m continuing my series of rustic, simple and easy to make dishes here with this Penne Pasta, which was one of the first dishes I ever developed, cooking with my cousin. In Italy, you’ll find that there is a whole world of pasta sauce outside of the bounds of the American red sauce that’s become so ubiquitous here. In this case, there’s almost no sauce at all, just some delicious ingredients tossed with pasta. The tomatoes cook down just enough to coat the penne with their zesty flavor.

A note: When you’re doing a dish with more subtle flavors such as this one, without a big sauce to overpower the pasta, you may want to invest in some good quality pasta such as De Cecco. Italian pasta is rarely as heavily sauced as the American version even when done with a red or al Fredo sauce, so they make their noodles to a finer quality. Of course, as with any pasta, be sure the salt the water generously!

Serves 4:

  • 1 box good penne pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 cup cubed smoked ham steak
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 -2 large firm tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons dry thyme or basil
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup shredded Romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

This is a very much Italian pasta dish that’s adaptable and simple. In the Southern Italian tradition it takes little time to make and provides a fairly complete meal in one dish. Heat your olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the ham, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, thyme, and vinegar . Saute until the onions become translucent.

At that point add the tomatoes. Sautee for two or three more minutes, letting the tomatoes remain firm and just begin to break up a bit, deglaze with wine and add the cooked pasta.

Toss for a minute or two until wine reduces Serve hot and topped with shredded Romano cheese. If possible, try some fresh thyme or basil, as that will really do wonders to elevate this dish!