Orecchiette with Toasted Bread Crumbs

Here’s a dish that is common enough that you will see a lot of different recipes for it.  This is my version, using crispy Panko bread crumbs.  It’s also good with fresh coarse bread crumbs, you will need about twice as many.  You can use ham or prosciutto, if you wish, leave it out and serve more people as a side dish.  Smaller penne works well if you can’t find orecchiette.  I buy my artisan Italian orecchiette at Aldi, and it’s very good!
Delicious with a green salad and fresh fruit.
Orecchiette with Toasted Bread Crumbs
  1          pound  dried orecchiette
     3/4   cup  extra virgin olive oil or 3/4 cup butter -- (or half butter half oil)
  1          cup  panko
  1          cup  ham -- finely diced (or prosciutto)
              fresh ground pepper
  1          ounce  grated parmesan cheese
  2          teaspoons  Italian seasoning or oregano or basil
In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Cook pasta until al dente; follow package directions. 
Meanwhile in med-sized sauté pan heat oil or butter until warm. Since the bread crumbs will cook quickly, you don't want to add them into a hot pan.
Add the breadcrumbs and stir constantly.  Sauté for about 2-5 minutes or until bread crumbs are nicely toasted; remove from heat and set aside.
Drain pasta in colander. Working quickly; add pasta to warmed serving bowl.
Add Parmesan and ham and mix thoroughly.  Top with bread crumbs and toss well.

Serves 8

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