This is one of the best macaroni and cheese combinations anywhere. Roasting makes the garlic mild and slightly sweet, and smoked provolone adds depth. The salty prosciutto gets a quick sauté to crisp it up and bring out its savory side. As great as these flavors are with pasta, they’re also fantastic on pizza or scrambled into eggs.
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
1 pound penne or other pasta, preferably De Cecco
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or canola oil
¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch strips (3/4 cups)
1/3 cup roasted garlic (about 2 heads)
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups shredded smoked provolone cheese (about ½ pound)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, for garnish (optional)
Bring a medium (6- to 8-quart) pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously (it should taste like the sea). Stir in the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain (but don’t rinse, or you’ll rinse away starches that will help thicken the sauce) and return to the empty pot.
Meanwhile, place a large (12- to 14-inch) sauté pan over high heat for several minutes. When hot, add the butter or oil and prosciutto. Sauté until slightly brown around the edges and sizzling, about 2 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the roasted garlic and heavy cream. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cream is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.
Add the provolone. Stir well and cook over medium-high heat until the cheese has melted and the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
Stir the sauce into the cooked and drained pasta in the pot. Place over medium heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken the sauce and allow the pasta to absorb the flavors, stirring now and then.
Serve in individual bowls topped with Parmesan cheese and parsley.