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Baked Pappardelle with Pancetta & Porcini

What a delicious hug of a recipe, a sort of fancy baked pasta. The crusty baked top, cheese, mushrooms and smoky ham are enough to make two people very happy. We also learned that even after many years of perfect béchamel you’re never to old to balls it up and have to start again. It was worth it!

Wine Suggestion: with all the earthy porcini and the rich sauce with Parmesan this begs for a Nebbiolo with a little bit of age so you get some of the leathery, mushroomy characters emerging. Ideally pick a Barolo or Barbaresco from a good vintage, but equally joyful with something like the Pira Luigi Langhe Nebbiolo which also has lovely youthful morello cherry fruit with hints of roses and truffles to compliment the pasta. Significantly, and importantly, Nebbiolo also has high tannins to work with the rich proteins in the Parmesan and high acidity to cut through the rich cheese, pancetta and butter.

Baked pappardelle with pancetta & porcini – serves 2

  • 500ml milk
  • 20g dried porcini
  • 40g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 100g pappardelle pasta
  • 50g thinly sliced pancetta, cut in 2cm pieces
  • 4-5 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Warm the milk in a saucepan and soak the porcini in it for about 10 minutes. Drain the milk through a sieve over a bowl, pressing lightly on the porcini with the back of a ladle to extract all the milk. Set the mushrooms aside.

Rinse out the pan, then use to melt the butter. Tip in the flour, stir and cook gently for a few minutes without letting it colour. Pour in the porcini-infused milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Cook over a very low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes or until thickened (not too thick). Season lightly with salt and generously with black pepper. Cover and set aside.

Cook the pasta in lots of salty boiling water until a little underdone. Drain, tip into a large bowl and mix with the sauce, porcini & pancetta pieces. Tip the mixture into a lightly-buttered dish and tap down lightly. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of Parmesan over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling and browned. Serve with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe from The Good Cook by Simon Hopkinson, Random House, 2011.)

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