The Pantry Challenge

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October 16, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

It’s hard to believe that it was over a year ago that Chris and I moved out of our home in DC and started this London adventure. By September 1st, we were all packed up with no where to go. Our stuff was traveling on a barge across the Atlantic. Now there’s a scary leap of faith. Normally your movers come and load up the truck and say, “see you at your new home in 2 days” not “you’ll get all your worldly possessions in hopefully 6 weeks” barring any monsoons or detours through the Bermuda Triangle.

So while our stuff made the long trip across the pond, we spent the next few weeks visiting friends and family to say our farewells. Our first stop was to my amazing friend Jen’s just down the road in VA. She hosted us (and Gertie and a few weeks worth of clothes) for a few days. While staying with her, she issued me a pantry challenge: no shopping but free rein over her pantry, fridge, and freezer. I was able to make a chicken with mustard pan sauce and spinach risotto. To be honest, Jen always has lots of healthy ingredients so it wasn’t that hard!

Just last week, we were back in the DC/VA area for a visit. Full circle and all that. Good thing we were there to attend a wedding and to visit with friends, not to visit the museums or see the pandas at the National Zoo. Thanks, government shutdown. Here Jen and I are at our goodbye brunch (with bottomless mimosas) at my old neighborhood favorite spot Ardeo + Bardeo.

A Broad @ Ardeo DC

The night before we left for this trip back to the US, I had my own version of a pantry challenge, trying to clear out what we had and not buy any more groceries before traveling. It was a success with this amazing Creamy Blue Cheese and Crispy Prosciutto Pasta.

Creamy Blue Cheese Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto: A Broad Cooking

One of the tricks is to add the frozen peas directly to the boiling pasta in the last 2 minutes.


To make the base of this sauce, I add a bit of chicken soup starter and mustard to shallots and garlic. Then using the starchy pasta water and a bit of added flour to thicken it slightly.


Turn the heat to low before mixing in the blue cheese. It may not all melt at once but will once you add the hot pasta.


I add cream at the end to give the pasta a luxurious silky finish without being overwhelmingly milky.


Crisped prosciutto adds a layer of texture and lots of salt to the pasta.

Blue Cheese Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto: A Broad Cooking

It’s amazing what you can put together with a little bit of thought and a few tasty staples.

Creamy Blue Cheese Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto: A Broad Cooking

Creamy Blue Cheese Pasta with Crispy Prosciutto

Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti

2 cups frozen peas

4 thin slices prosciutto

1 Tbs olive oil

1 shallot, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp chicken soup starter

1 tsp mustard

2 tsp flour

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese

½ cup heavy cream

3/4 cup grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and preheat the oven to 400˚F.  Then cook the pasta one minute less than the package directs. With 2 minutes left to cook, add the peas to the boiling water. Drain all together, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

Bake the slices of prosciutto until crisp, about 8 minutes. Reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots and garlic for 4 minutes, until tender. Mix in the soup starter and mustard. Sprinkle with flour and continue to cook for one minute. Then slowly add ½ cup pasta water, whisking until smooth. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the blue cheese and cook for 2 more minutes until it begins to melt. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the sauce has begun to come together, toss with the pasta, peas, and parmesan (reserving 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top). If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit more pasta water to loosen. Divide into four pasta bowls and top with a tablespoon of parmesan and a crumbled strip of prosciutto.


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