Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

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.

Pappardelle with Porcini and Pancetta

Ingredients

  • 500ml milk
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 40g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g pappardelle
  • 50g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tbsps grated parmesan cheese

Method

  • 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

 

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Lemon and Ricotta Cake

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

The first lemon and ricotta cake I made was not a success. It was a Jamie Oliver recipe and didn’t really work, producing a rather dense cake. It may of course be entirely my fault and I might try it again one day. On the other hand, I’m not sure why I’d bother because yesterday I made a Diana Henry version from her book Simple and it was light and moist and delicious.

This cake works as an afternoon tea cake but also as a dessert served perhaps with some berries and crème fraîche or whipped cream. It’s best eaten slightly warm. It’s the ricotta that makes the cake moist but it also means it doesn’t keep that well. Don’t do what I did and make it on a day when hardly anyone’s around to share it with you because it really is best eaten on the day it’s made. If you do have some left, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate it. This is what I did and the next day I gave it a blast (a minute or two at high heat) in the microwave to warm it up a little and it freshened up beautifully. I was thrilled when our Italian friend, who is very particular about the food of his homeland and whose late wife was the most wonderful cook, gave it his approval.

Lemon and Ricotta Cake

Serves 8 (depending on hunger/greed)

You will need a 20cm springform tin, lightly greased and base-lined (with bake-o-glide)

Ingredients

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 4 unwaxed lemons and the juice of 3
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 250g fresh ricotta, drained in a sieve
  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Icing sugar to serve

Method

  • Beat the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  • Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork and gradually add them, beating well after each addition
  • Stir the lemon zest and drained ricotta into the batter
  • Whisk the egg whites until they form medium peaks
  • Stir the lemon juice into the batter, then fold in the flour, almonds and baking powder
  • Fold two big spoonfuls of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it, then fold in the rest
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared tin
  • Put it in the baking oven and bake for 45-50 minutes; a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean once it’s cooked
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then remove the springform ring and let it continue to cool, although as I mentioned above it’s delicious served slightly warm
  • Dust with icing sugar to serve

 

 

 

Tomato Sauce for Pasta

Tomato Sauce for Pasta

We’re slowly adjusting to being empty nesters. Mind you, university terms are not that long and our youngest will be home for the Christmas holidays in just a few weeks. One thing I’m struggling with though, is reducing the amount of food I buy: I keep overestimating how much we’ll need. I imagine that just when I’ve got it right, it will be time to step up the quantities again for the family returning home for Christmas. And so it is that yesterday I suddenly remembered the San Marzano plum tomatoes I’d bought and not used. I don’t keep tomatoes in the fridge because they lose their flavour. This means they need to be used within a few days of purchase. My tomatoes were fine but starting to feel a bit squidgy; it was time to make a pasta sauce. Pasta with a really good homemade tomato sauce is one of my favourite dishes to eat. We probably had it at least once a week when my children were growing up and I still make it often. I have tried lots of different recipes over the years. The one I probably make the most is this one by Felicity Cloake. But sometimes I just make it up as I go along according to what I have in the cupboard and yesterday I decided to make a sauce using roast tomatoes, based on my friend Kate Percy’s from her book Go Faster Food (you don’t have to be an endurance athlete to enjoy her recipes: I’m certainly not one).  Roasting tomatoes is a great way to use them up when they’re past their best and it also intensifies the flavour of disappointingly insipid ones.

Ingredients

  • 3 x San Marzano tomatoes (or other plum tomatoes)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250ml passata
  • Pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Glug of red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp dried basil (or a couple of stalks of fresh basil if you have it)
  • 250g spaghetti or pasta of your choice

Method

  • (Pre-heat conventional (fan) oven to 140ºC or 170º if you’re in a hurry)
  • Place the tomatoes on a baking tray lined with bake-o-glide
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle lightly with sugar
  • Place in the simmering oven for 3-4 hours until shrivelled and the aroma is intense
  • Tip the roasted tomatoes and all the residual juices from the tray into a saucepan or small casserole
  • Squash the tomatoes down a bit with a wooden spoon, add the passata, garlic, bay leaf, chilli flakes, a little more olive oil, red wine vinegar and basil
  • Bring to simmering point on the simmering plate and transfer to the simmering oven for an hour or two for the flavours to meld and the sauce to thicken. You can leave it uncovered if you want it to thicken in less time than that
  • (Or simmer covered on a conventional hob at low temperature for half an hour to an hour, removing the lid towards the end if you feel it’s not thick enough)
  • Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until it’s al dente
  • Check the sauce for seasoning and toss the drained pasta in it
  • Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan