Pasta with Ham and Eggs

Makes 3 or 4 main course or about 6 first course servings
Time: 10 minutes

"Can I steal this for my menu?" is the best thing I can hear from a chef, and that was Gabrielle's response to this dish. When I was at Prune, I used her jambon de Bayonne, among France's best hams, but the kind of ham doesn't matter much-salt-cured or smoked are both fine, as long as it's of good quality.

This is also an ideal dish for one. You really can cook it in 10 minutes once the water comes to a boil-just adjust the proportions accordingly.

Salt and black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
4 to 8 tablespoons (1/2 to 1 stick)
8 slices ham (about 6 ounces), cut into ribbons
4 eggs
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

1. Set a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Turn the oven on to its lowest setting; warm 4 pasta bowls in it. When the water is ready, add the pasta. Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of the butter and the ham into a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the ham colors, about 2 minutes, then divide the ham among the pasta bowls.

2. Add the remaining butter (the more the better, of course) to the pan and, when the foam subsides, crack the eggs into the pan. Cook them sunny side up, until the whites are nearly firm and the yolks very runny. The butter will begin to color while the eggs are cooking; if it threatens to burn, lower the heat to medium.

3. When the pasta is tender but not mushy, drain it, reserving a bit of the cooking water. Put the pasta in the bowls. Use a spatula to transfer a fried egg to each bowl of pasta and pour all the butter from the pan around the eggs onto the pasta. Slice the eggs on the pasta and toss them with the pasta, adding cheese and, if necessary, a little of the pasta cooking liquid, to make a sauce. Add salt if necessary, and lots of black pepper, and serve.