Indulgent creamy pasta with pancetta and mushrooms

You know how some nights you’re all “Let’s go for a walk and eat a superfood salad!?” and then other nights you just want to lie on the sofa in your PJs with a blanket and shovel high carb food into your mouth? Yup? Well this is the pasta recipe for those sofa nights. A super fast, super indulgent dish with just enough time built in to get your PJs on and find your new series on Netflix. I don’t know about you, but we’re DYING for Series 4 of The Americans on FX and this will totally be what we’re eating during the series premiere.Creamy pasta with mushrooms, pancetta and marscapone

What’s not to love about a 5 ingredient dinner – pasta, eggs, mascarpone (or heavy cream), pancetta and mushrooms plus a few storecupboard staples – salt, pepper, butter, garlic, onion and parmesan. As least I count butter, garlic, onion and parmesan as “essential” items in our home 😉 and it takes maybe 15 minutes to prepare. One of the unsung hero ingredients in this dish is the leftover pasta cooking water – the starchiness brings everything together!

Simply cook the mushrooms and a little garlic in butter until brown and nutty, remove and cook pancetta, add onions, add back cooked mushrooms. Mix eggs and mascarpone. Grate cheese. Cook pasta (reserve cooking water!!!!) and add to pan (off heat), throw in a handful of cheese (channel Mickey Mouse size hands for this), a big splash of the starchy cooking water and then add the mixture of eggs and mascarpone cheese. Toss vigorously and serve in warmed bowls.
How to make pasta with mushrooms and bacon

Actually, you could probably make this in 10 minutes if it wasn’t for my insistence that mushrooms should be cooked separately. I love my mushroom friends but they tend to color everything else…well, mushroom color. If you’re happy eating grey food, then by all means cook the mushrooms at the same time as the onion and skip step 1.

At best this is a VERY incorrect carbonara (the pancetta should be replaced with guanciale, mushrooms are uninvited imposters, onions and garlic are as welcome as a coven of vampires in your home, mascarpone or heavy cream is all kind of sacrilegious and WHERE IS THE SPAGHETTI?!?!?), but here’s the thing, it tastes pretty great. And the addition of the mascarpone or heavy cream reduces the risk of your eggs scrambling in the pan. You’re welcome.

Indulgent creamy pasta with pancetta and mushrooms

  • Servings: two greedy people
  • Difficulty: easy except for the mixing of the eggs when you can end up with scrambled egg pasta which will absolutely ruin your night
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Ingredients:

8 oz mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms but baby bella or regular white mushrooms work too!), if you have a sprig of fresh thyme or some fresh parsley, throw it in.
2 cloves fresh garlic – crushed or finely sliced
Large knob of butter
6 oz pancetta (or bacon)
1 small onion – finely diced
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp marscapone cheese (or 3 tbsp heavy cream if you can’t find mascarpone)
6 oz parmegiano regiano (you can also do a 50:50 mix of parmesan and pecorino)

4-6 oz of dried pasta. I have a fondness of De Cecco egg fettucine (it comes in nice little nests, 1 nest per person is perfect) – you’ll see it in the step-by-step picture or a nice ruffled pasta as in the top picture.

Directions:

  1. Saute sliced mushrooms in a large pan (you need to have room for everything in this pan later) with a little butter over a medium heat until golden brown and just starting to smell nutty. Add garlic for the last minute of cooking. Remove to a plate/bowl.
  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil, salt generously.
  3. In the same pan that you cooked the mushrooms in, add the diced pancetta and cook over a medium heat (stirring regularly) until the fat has started to render out and the pancetta is getting crispy.
  4. Add diced onions and stir vigorously so the moisture in the onions loosens up the browned crispy bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan. When the onion is lovely and soft and just on the verge of turning golden, add the mushrooms back to pan and reduce the heat to the very lowest setting just to keep everything warm.
  5. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for the required time
  6. While the pasta cooks, mix the whole egg, egg yolks and mascarpone in a small bowl. It won’t really mix and you’ll have weird lumps. Don’t worry about it. Add some salt and pepper (and have a sip of wine!)
  7. Grate the cheese with a microplane grater.
  8. Put serving bowls or plates into oven on low or fill with boiling water (tip water out just before serving)
  9. Drain the pasta making sure to save some pasta water (I usually stick a large coffee mug under my colander to catch the water)
  10. With the pan OFF the heat, add the drained pasta to the mushroom/pancetta mix.
  11. Add the grated cheese and a good glug of the pasta water (1/4-1/2 cup to start)
  12. Add the lumpy egg/mascarpone mixture and toss like crazy. You don’t want scrambled eggs! More of a silky, creamy, rich sauce. Add more pasta water if things look dry.
  13. Serve on warmed plates/bowls and add a final shaving of fresh parmigiano regiano.

Creamy mushroom and pancetta pasta showered with parmesan cheese

What’s your must-watch TV series at the moment? What should we watch next? We’re all caught up on Making of a Murderer, House of Cards, The Americans, True Detective….

Oh, and if you don’t have a microplane grater (love mine for cheese, ginger, garlic, chocolate, nutmeg and more), check this one out:

Uovo da Raviolo or Runny Yolk Pasta for Valentines Day

Is there anything worse than going out for dinner on Valentine’s day? You’re lined up on tables of two like sardines in a can, there’s the pressure, oh the pressure, to gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes and dinner probably ends with a soggy molten chocolate lava cake. I’m much happier to take a rain check on dinner and stay home with some good food, good wine and maybe netflix and chill snuggle up to watch the final series of The Americans on Amazon.
Heart shaped raviolo with runny egg yolk. Perfect for a romantic dinner.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not the Grinch of Valentine’s Day! I’ve been away all week at a conference so I thought I’d put a little more effort into my Valentine’s dinner with Paul. Ever since I became obsessed interested in making fresh pasta last year, I’ve amassed quite the collection of ravioli cutters. When this one popped up in my “suggested for you” Amazon feed I clicked “buy”, click on image to get your own (affiliate link):

When it arrived, I was surprised at the size, it’s 3.5 inches wide which got me thinking about individual ravioli or raviolo. I remembered a Uovo da raviolo dish I’d eaten many years ago in Italy. Translucent fresh pasta sheets hid a bright yellow warm yet still runny egg yolk that broke perfectly when the raviolo was split with a fork.
Three striped ravioli stuffed with ricotta and a whole egg yolk

First you make your fresh pasta, some Italian grocery stores sell fresh pasta sheets if you want to skip this step.

If you don’t have a kitchen scraper and you regularly make fresh pasta (or bake bread), then what are you waiting for? These gadgets clean up all sorts of worktop stickiness and can be used to easily cut dough into portions. Click on picture to get yours (affiliate link):

Then you make some kind of ricotta filing. Simplest was fresh ricotta, a little grated parmesan, salt and pepper for me. Mixed in a baggie to save on washing up (plus you can snip the end of your baggie to make a piping bag when you’re ready. You could also add sauteed chopped spinach or maybe finely diced and sauteed mushrooms.

I’ve always wanted to try making striped pasta and just happened to have a couple of beets in the fridge. I *should* have juiced them and just added a little of the beet juice to a small portion of the pasta but I decided that just grating a little fresh beet would work. There was no beet flavor and I kind of liked the speckled appearance.
How to make striped pasta at home

Once you’ve rolled out your pasta, you simply pipe a little ring of ricotta mixture in a circle to keep your yolk in place. Moisten the pasta with a little water to seal and if you happen to have a heart shaped cutter, go to town.

90 seconds in a boiling pan of water and these babies are good to go. Leftover breakfast bacon and a handful of mushrooms made a little bed for the raviolo to rest upon.  I also fried up a couple of sage leaves for a crispy green topping.

We have friends visiting so I made a little more than I usually would for two, if there’s just two of you, half the ingredients.

Uovo Da Raviolo or Egg Yolk in Pasta

  • Servings: 6 hearts
  • Difficulty: kind of fiddly
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Ingredients:

For pasta:
1 cup of Triple OOO flour plus extra for dusting
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt

For raviolo:
Fresh pasta (see above)
A few drops of beet juice or red food coloring if you want to do the stripes
6 egg yolks
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or gruyere
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
6 slices bacon
6-10 mushrooms (white or a mix of white and shitake)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Optional: fresh sage leaves crisped up in a little butter or oil

You’ll also need a pasta rolling machine or Kitchen-Aid pasta attachment, plastic wrap and a kitchen scraper is helpful.

Directions:

1. On a clean surface (wood or marble) tip out the flour. Make a well in the middle and add the whole egg and egg yolks.
2. Being super gentle, start to whisk the eggs with a fork to incorporate the flour from the sides, try not to let the eggs escape over the wall, once you have a fairly shaggy ball use your hands to knead the dough.
Note that you might not incorporate all of the flour, it’s going to depend on the size of your eggs. A bench scraper is also a genius tool for getting eggy flour unstuck from your worksurface. The dough will initially feel kind of sticky and wet, keep dusting your hands and surface with flour until it no longer feels wet and starts to feel a little rough.
4. Knead for 10-15 minutes, don’t skip it, this is essential to release the gluten in the flour. Push the base of your hand into the ball of dough to stretch it out, turn 90 degrees, double over and repeat.
5. When the dough feels smooth and springy, almost like play-doh, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
6. Rest the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes (or it’ll happily rest for a few hours longer). Room temperature is OK for an hour or just pop it in the fridge.
7. If you want striped pasta, cut off a piece of the dough, about the size of a small ping pong ball and in a baggie, add a few drops of beet juice, smoosh it around in the baggie until incorporated.
8. While the dough rests, prepare the ricotta filling. In a baggie, dump a cup of fresh ricotta, a good pinch of salt and pepper and the grated cheese.
9. Saute the bacon or pancetta until crispy, remove from pan to drain on paper towels. Wipe out excess oil and saute mushrooms in same pan until they’re golden and smell beautifully nutty. Add bacon back to pan but remove from the heat until needed later.
10. Roll out the pasta, I do a few passes on the widest setting, folding and turning the pasta and then keep going until you can just see through the pasta sheets (setting 6 on my Kitchen-Aid). If you want striped pasta, roll out the dyed pasta until very thin, slice long strips, place on the regular pasta when it’s one setting away from being done, press lightly to stick and then do the final roll.
11. Put a large pan of water on to boil.
12. Cut the pasta into 4 inch squares, lay on plastic wrap and cover with a damp kitchen cloth to prevent drying out.
13. Cut the corner off your bag of ricotta mixture and pipe a yolk-sized circle on the bottom pasta sheets. Plop an egg yolk into the well.
14. Use a pastry brush to brush a little water around the ricotta (this acts as glue to stick the top piece of pasta down). Add the top piece (striped side out if using) and press down gently but firmly to stick together and push out any air bubbles. Trim the side or use any ravioli cutter you happen to have
15. Put the bacon/mushroom/butter mixture back on the heat to warm through.
16. Cook the ravioli in the boiling water for 90 seconds, remove gently with a slotted spoon, drain and add to mushroom/bacon pan for 20 seconds to toss in butter, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
17. To serve, add mushrooms and bacon to plate, top with a raviolo and crispy sage leaves.

Serve with a chilled glass of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Champagne to cut through the richness of the egg yolk. Break the pasta with your fork and watch the perfect yolk spill out onto the plate. Warm baguette slices work perfectly to mop up the yolk!

Heart shaped ravioli pasta (Uovo da Raviolo) recipe with bacon and mushrooms

Umami-Rich Bolognese Recipe

Thankfully, it looks like the impending Winter Storm Jonas will miss us here in Maine but one of my favorites things to do in a snowstorm is to stay warm inside with something delicious simmering on the stove. And when I think of slow-cooking and simmering, a rich Bolognese ragu sauce always comes to mind

Ragu bolognese - rich and high in umami

There’s a little prep work upfront (chopping the veg and browning the meat) but once the fragrant sauce is gently bubbling on the stovetop you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Bonus, each time you come inside from shoveling, your home will smell like it’s been taken over by an Italian nonna.

Growing up in the UK, my parents didn’t have money for lavish vacations but they were resourceful and my dad converted an old VW camper and each summer we’d head off to Italy for 6 glorious weeks. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I was an incredibly picky eater as a child and I’d turn up my nose at slabs of authentic Italian pizza, refuse to eat any pasta I didn’t recognize and generally subsist on Coco Pops.

Once we returned home, my mum would regularly make this Bolognese sauce over the winter months to remind us that summer would be here before we knew it. Over the years I’ve made small adaptations to her recipe, mostly because I’m somewhat obsessed with the idea of boosting the umami in the dish. If you’re not familiar with the concept of umami, it was discovered to be the fifth taste by the Japanese. Umami is a pleasant savory taste imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides which occur naturally in many foods. Most people don’t recognize umami when they encounter it, but it plays an important role in making food taste extra delicious!

Foods naturally rich in umami include beef, pork, carrots, tomatoes (is umami responsible for the popularity of tomato ketchup?!?!?), mushrooms, soy, parmesan cheese (with crazy high levels of naturally occurring glutamate at 1200mg/100g of cheese). And guess what? I’ve incorporated all of these ingredients into this Umami-rich bolognese sauce.

I get out my largest 12qt stockpot and go to town, ending up with around 10 quart size baggies of sauce (perfect for 2 people) which I’ll lay flat to freeze and then stack on their sides in a freezer draw.

One other note, a few months ago we bought the meat grinder attachment for the kitchen-aid, this has been life changing! I’ve never been the biggest fan of ground meat but the texture of home-ground meat vs. store bought meat is like night and day. Home-ground meat is almost fluffy in texture, it doesn’t clump or stick together plus you know exactly what you’re eating. I like to see what cuts of meat look good and maybe what’s on special but I always include some combination of beef chuck, pork and prosciutto or pancetta.

Let’s get to it. Head out to the store where hopefully you can find all of the ingredients even if the shelves are empty of bread and milk, and spend your weekend making this sauce. The following recipe results in enough sauce for about 20 servings (10 meals for 2 or 5 meals for 4) but you can divide it by half if you’d prefer to make less.

Bolognese sauce rich with umami

  • Servings: ~20 (10 quart size baggies which serve 2 people)
  • Difficulty: easy
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Author: http://www.Mainely Eating.com

Ingredients:

  1. 9lbs of meat (remember this will give you a lot of sauce!)
    Store bought: 6lbs ground beef chuck, 3lbs ground pork (can substitute up to 1lb with ground veal)
    Home ground: 6lbs of beef (I like an equal mix of beef chuck, boneless short ribs and sirloin tips for maximum beefiness), 2lbs pork, 1/2lb veal, 1/2lb prosciutto or pancetta
  2. 10 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
  3. Half a head of celery, washed and finely diced
  4. 2 large onions, peeled and finely diced
  5. 8 cloves of garlic, finely sliced or minced in a garlic press
  6. Big glug of olive oil (~2tbsp)
  7. Large knob of butter (~2 tbsp)
  8. 2x6oz cans of tomato paste
  9. 2 cups of while milk
  10. 1 large 28oz can of diced tomatoes (Muir Glen are the best in my opinion)
  11. 1 large 28oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes (also Muir Glen if you can find them)
  12. 1 bottle of red wine (doesn’t have to be a stellar vintage but should be drinkable)
  13. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  14. 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  15. Small handful of dried mushrooms – porcini or chanterelle or European mix
  16. 3 or 4 Parmesan cheese rinds
  17. 8oz finely grated parmesan cheese (ideally imported Parmigiano Regiano) plus more to serve

Directions

  1. In a 12qt large stockpot, melt the butter and add the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the diced carrots, onion, celery and sauté for ~10 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft but not colored. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  2. Add the minced garlic to the vegetables and cook for another 3-5 minutes (your house should start to smell delicious right about now!)
  3. Add the tomato paste to the vegetables, stir well to combine and lower the heat.
  4. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 1 cup of boiling water
  5. In a separate large frying pan over a medium-high heat, start browning the meat (more umami boost!). The objective isn’t to cook the meat all the way through, just to brown so don’t crowd the meat or it will simply steam. If you’re using ground meat from the store then try to get rid of any clumps.
  6. Add each batch of browned meat to the large stockpot containing the vegetable/garlic/tomato paste. Low heat until all of the meat has been added. Feel free to drain off excess meat fat but you don’t want completely dry meat so make sure you add some.
  7. If your frying pan has browned/crispy bits, add a half cup of the red wine to deglaze and pick up this tasty fond and add to the stockpot.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium-high and pour in the milk. Stir frequently to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. When the milk has bubbled away, add the two cans of diced tomatoes.
  9. Add the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce
  10. Remove the mushrooms from the water, slice them finely and add to the pot. Also add the mushroom soaking liquid (watch out for grit at the bottom of the bowl)
  11. Pour in the bottle of red wine (cook’s privilege to enjoy a glass while cooking!) and lower the heat to a low simmer. You should see the occasional bubble come up to the surface
  12. Add the parmesan rinds
  13. Simmer the sauce for 3-5 hours, stirring it every time you pass by the stove. If it starts to look at all dry then add a cup of water. Towards the last 30 minutes, stir in the finely grated parmesan cheese.
  14. Remove the parmesan rinds (they’ll pop up when you stir the sauce), taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To freeze, let cool and ladle into quart size baggies (lay flat to freeze and then stack upright)
To serve, cook your favorite pasta (I’m fond of thin fettuccine egg noodles), drain (always reserve a mug full of the cooking water!) and add back to the pan with a little butter. Toss with the Bolognese sauce (add a little of the hot pasta water to loosen things up) and shower with grated parmesan.

Helpful tips:

Clumpy sauce is the worst. Home-ground meat doesn’t clump but often store-bought meat does. This “meat unclumper” can help (affiliate link)!

The sauce inevitably tastes better the day after cooking once the components have had time to mingle and make friends.

If you don’t want to use wine you can substitute chicken stock (or vegetable or beef)

The sauce is perfect over spaghetti or fettuccine, as the basis for a lasagne, as a pasta bake when mixed with fusilli and topped with fresh mozzarella before a quick broil.
Simmered for hours, this rich and tasty bolognese sauce is high in umami