Prosciutto Penne With Spinach


The secret ingredient to an amazing, restaurant-worthy pasta recipe like this one is shockingly simple. It's just water! Pasta water, that is. Using just ½ cup of the leftover penne cooking liquid adds a starchy body to the pan sauce, which helps the flavors to emulsify into a rich coating that's full of flavor and body. The liquid pulls the salty pan drippings from the prosciutto and the garlicky oil and slicks it onto each tube of pasta. That's why penne is great for a dish like this one—the ridges encourage sauce to stick and the tube traps delicious pockets of sauce. And by the way, this simple pasta water technique is the kind of back-pocket trick that you can pull out with any pasta dish.

Prosciutto Penne With Spinach
Photo: Victor Protasio
Hands On Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
25 mins
4 servings


  • 12 ounces penne or other short pasta

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • 4 ounces prosciutto, torn

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 5 ounces baby spinach

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest

  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ¾ cup)


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water.

  2. Heat olive oil and prosciutto in a large skillet over medium. Cook, stirring, until prosciutto is crisp, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate using tongs. Add garlic to skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add spinach, salt, pepper, and lemon zest and cook, tossing, until spinach is wilted, 2 minutes.

  3. Add pasta, reserved pasta water, and half the cheese to the skillet. Cook, tossing until sauce thickens and coats the pasta, about 1 minute. Top with prosciutto and remaining cheese.

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