Baked Pappardelle with Pancetta & Porcini

This would have to be one of the best baked pasta dishes I’ve ever made, or tasted,  for that matter and I don’t say that lightly.  It comes from one of my favourite chefs, Simon Hopkinson.  The recipe below will feed 2-3 people and I think it tastes best when made to these quantities.  The pasta needs to lie in a shallow gratin dish so if you need to increase the amounts listed don’t be tempted to put it into a deeper dish; just use a larger shallow dish or divide it into two dishes. I wasn’t able to find any good quality pancetta; I find most of the Australian made pancetta (Italian pancetta is still not allowed to be imported into Australia) to be overly salty and I wasn’t near a good deli to pick up a better quality artisan one so I used speck instead and I must say that I found the smokey flavour worked very well with the porcini.  Next time I’ll make it with pancetta as originally intended and believe me, there will be a next time!

Ingredients – serves 2 -3    Adapted from The Good Cook by Simon Hopkinson

500ml milk
30g dried porcini mushrooms
40g butter
25g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
125g pappardelle
Olive oil
100g pancetta, cut into 2cm/1in pieces – I used speck
3-4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C. Warm the milk in a saucepan, add the porcini mushrooms, remove from the heat and soak for 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve suspended over a bowl, pressing lightly on the mushrooms with the back of ladle to extract all the milk.

Heat the butter in a clean saucepan, add the flour and stir over a low heat for 2-3 minutes without colouring the roux. Pour in the porcini-flavoured milk all in one go and whisk together vigorously until smooth. Cook the sauce for a further few minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a small frypan and cook the pancetta or speck for a few minutes until the fat has rendered a little and starting to crisp. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander, tip into a roomy bowl and carefully stir in the sauce, porcini and pancetta until well combined.

 

 

Place the pasta into a lightly buttered shallow oven-proof dish. Smooth the surface and cover with the parmesan then drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges and golden-brown.

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