Tagliolina gratinati al prosciutto

Main course: serves 4. Total time: 1 hour
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50g butter
75g prosciutto, sliced slightly thicker than normal and then cut into thin strips
350g dried egg tagliolini
75g freshly grated Parmesan (plus extra to hand at table)

Bechamel sauce (you need 150ml / 150g)

500ml milk
2 cloves
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
salt
50g butter
35g flour
freshly grated nutmeg
white pepper

Preheat an overhead grill. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Melt about a third of the butter in a large frying pan over a moderately high heat. Add the prosciutto and cook it for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Cook the pasta in the boiling water for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain well in a colander and tip it into the frying pan. Briskly toss together with the prosciutto, add a further third of the butter, sprinkle with half of the given amount of Parmesan and thoroughly mix everything together.

Now spread the pasta evenly into a shallow, preferably oval, white baking dish. Spoon the bechamel sauce over the surface and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Cut the remaining butter into slivers and scatter over the top. Place under the grill until the entire dish is molten, bubbling and evenly blistered by golden pustules. Serve without delay on to hot plates and pass around the extra Parmesan at table.

For the bechamel sauce

Heat together the milk, cloves, onion, bay and a little salt. Simmer a few minutes, cover and allow the flavours to mingle for about 20 minutes. In another pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Make a roux and gently cook the butter and flour together for a minute or two, but on no account allow it to colour; it must stay pale.

Strain the milk into the roux and vigorously whisk together until smooth (this always gets rid of any lumps). On the lowest possible heat, using a diffuser pad if you have one, set the sauce to cook. Do not cover the sauce, and stir it, from time to time, with a wooden spoon. Leave to cook for about 15 minutes. Add the nutmeg and pepper, mix in thoroughly, check for salt, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Strain again into a clean pan and put a lid on. This helps to prevent a skin forming.

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