Inspired Linguine with Italian Ham

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I have the 1963 The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, which is great for proper ways to slice meats and entertain. But on page 3, it warns the reader, “No recipe, even Good Housekeeping’s, can rate raves if you fail to follow it with meticulous care.” Problem is, hmm… I first read that sentence this morning, 12 hours after heavily reworking, changing and failing to “meticulously” follow the recipe for Baked Italian Ham and Spaghetti. I am grateful for the inspiration, though, because it turned out amazing! Here’s the revision.

Inspired Linguine with Italian Ham
Ingredients
¼ tbsp. plus 1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. onion, cut in thin rings
4 small stalks celery, cut in long slivers to mimic linguine
4 cloves garlic, divided
2-3 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 (1 lb. 4 oz.) can whole tomatoes (2 ½ c.), cut in slivers, reserve juice
1 tsp. corn starch (opt.)
2-2 ½ c. cooked ham, cut in long slivers
½-1 can (14.5 oz.) French cut green beans
1- 1 ½ c. dairy sour cream
¾-1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
2 (8 oz.) pkg. linguine

Prepare linguine: bring 4-6 qt. water in a 6-8 qt. stock pot to a rolling boil, add ½ t. olive oil to the water to prevent the linguine from sticking. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 min. for “al dente” pasta. Remove from heat drain, rinse lightly/quickly so as not to cool, drain well and add to sauce.

The sauce: While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 T. olive oil in a skillet and slightly brown celery and onion. When the onion begins to brown, use a microplane grater and shred 2 cloves of garlic into the skillet with the celery and onion. Add the thyme, red pepper and ½ of the black pepper and cook slightly. Add the tomatoes and juice, bring to a simmer.

(Note: if you want to serve now, reserve a ¼ of the tomato juice. Use a fork to mix the cornstarch with the reserved tomato juice and add and blend into the simmering skillet. This step is optional, but will help thicken the sauce so that it can be served immediately. Or, if you have more time, you can skip the cornstarch and allow the flavor develop by baking the pasta and sauce as described at the end of the recipe.)  Add the ham, green beans, return to a simmer. Blend in the sour cream. Add the remaining freshly ground black pepper to increase the bite of the dish, or to taste. Nice decoration, too.

May serve on linguine now ; Or, heat oven to 350° F. and blend linguine and sauce into a casserole and bake, covered, for 5-10 min., then turn down the oven to 200-170° F. without opening the oven door. Serve in 20-30 min. Makes 6-8 servings.

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