Baked pasta is comfort food and this particular baked pasta dish is more comforting than most. It is no less delicious and perfectly flavoured than I would expect from Simon Hopkinson. I found the recipe on the BBC website. I seem to remember watching him make it in his TV series, “The Good Cook”, a few years ago. I never got around to buying the accompanying book of the same name but am seriously considering doing so now.
This is so simple to make; simple recipes often are the best. I never thought I’d be regularly cooking recipes for only two people but the truth is it’s often just my husband and I at the kitchen table these days, and if my elderly mother-in-law isn’t up to cooking, there’s always enough to take a small portion of whatever we’re having downstairs to her. Don’t look at the quantity of pasta and worry that it’s not enough; I promise you it is. This is a filling dish. It’s also good for you: I recently read that mushrooms, especially porcini, are the best food source of two anti-ageing antioxidants. So that’s a bonus.
Bring the milk up to simmering point in a pan on the simmering plate
Add the porcini mushrooms and remove from the heat
After 10 minutes or so drain the milk through a sieve into a bowl, pressing out as much liquid from the mushrooms as you can
Melt the butter in a clean saucepan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and stir for a couple of minutes with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth roux
Pour in the porcini flavoured milk in one go and whisk vigorously until smooth and starting to thicken. Season, cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 10 minutes (can be longer: as ever where the simmering oven is concerned, it will come to no harm) while you cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions until it’s al dente. (I bring a large pan of water to a boil on the boiling plate and add salt before adding the pasta.)
Drain the pasta and then in a large bowl mix it with the porcini, pancetta and sauce. Tip this into a lightly buttered oven-proof dish and sprinkle over the parmesan
Place in the middle of the Aga roasting oven for about 25 minutes until it’s bubbling and golden brown
Serve with a green salad and you might want some extra cheese too
Last Saturday evening our youngest son was heading out to a party. I like to think we’re old hands at matters teenage so we trod carefully and got away with asking a few questions, which elicited the following: it was local, so he could walk to it, and was being hosted by two of his school friends. We were also told he and others would be gathering at a friend’s house beforehand and walking to the party together.
We’ve been here before of course, my husband and I. The difference is that when our older boys went to parties, there was always at least one left behind who, depending on his age at the time, needed some sort of attention from us. Since our third son left home to seek his fortune (well, first to go to university and now London to try out various jobs) our life has been undergoing subtle change. We’re very gradually becoming accustomed to just the two of us sitting down to eat together, but it’s still quite a rare thing because my husband tends to be away two nights a week in London. And we won’t be proper emptynesters until we can go to sleep without listening out for the key in the door announcing that someone has arrived home safely.
So that he could dash off to meet his friends on Saturday without going hungry, the boy ate a large, late lunch. Once he’d gone, I set about preparing this pasta dish which I’d found on the BBC website. It was the first time I’d cooked anything by Darina Allen, but it was delicious and I’ll definitely make it again and seek out more of her recipes. I halved the quantities and, I confess, DID NOT peel the tomatoes, but I did deseed them. I hate fiddly cooking jobs. I’m probably rather a lazy cook. I also left the rosemary out. Get me. Oh, and we didn’t have parmesan with it either.
Darina Allen’s Penne with Tomatoes, Chorizo and Cream
450g penne pasta
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
700g fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
sugar, pinch of
pinch chilli flakes
3 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley
4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan, to serve (optional)
Melt the butter in a saucepan on the simmering plate, add the chopped rosemary and diced tomatoes
Season with salt, pepper and sugar
Cook in the simmering oven until the tomatoes have just begun to soften into a sauce
Chop the chorizo into small chunks, say 5x5mm, and add to the pan with the chilli flakes
Add the cream and two tablespoons of the parsley, and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes on the simmering plate, stirring frequently until the cream has reduced by half. Keep this warm in the simmering oven
Cook the pasta (on the boiling plate) until al dente, drain and stir into the sauce
Sprinkle with the remaining parsley
We also ate some of the Bordeaux Quay focaccia I’d bought at Whiteladies Road Market in the morning, which probably made the meal somewhat carb heavy but hey, it was Saturday night and we thought we’d live a little. We drank a glass or two of Rioja too!