Between the disruption of normal routines caused by Christmas (and school summer vacation, and trying to maintain some level of work output notwithstanding) and a kitchen full of holiday food, I seem to be spending a lot of time lately concocting things out of bits and pieces to have for dinner, rather than cooking any of my regular standards, or trying out new recipes. Nearly everything I’ve made recently feels like a one-off, based upon a particular conjunction of ingredients I’ve got lying around.
Some of these have worked out better than others. This one, cooked up out of sheer desperation when I had a guest coming and my dinner Plan A had failed spectacularly, is by far the best of the lot, and worth recording for posterity and replication.
Creamy (and a little spicy) mushroom pasta
Please note that all measurements here are extremely approximate. Also note that butter appears twice; this is not a misprint – you use some at the beginning and some at the end. (I always forget about the second part when there’s one of those ‘divided’ instructions.)
1 Tbsp/½ oz/15 g bacon fat
1 Tbsp/½ oz/15 g butter
2 slices hot salami, diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 handfuls mushrooms (any kind), chopped
1 lb/450 g pasta, preferably short
½ cup/4 oz/120 ml white wine
½ cup/4 oz/120 ml cream
2-3 oz/60-90 g goat cheese
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp/½ oz/15 g butter
grated pecorino romano cheese, for serving
Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
In another pan, heat the bacon fat and butter on medium, then add the anchovy, salami, and onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until onions have softened and anchovy has dissolved. Add mushrooms and cook for another 8-10 minutes, continuing to stir regularly, until mushrooms have released their liquid and begun to shrink and darken.
By now the pasta water should be boiling. Add a generous amount of salt and the pasta; stir to make sure the pasta isn’t clumping, and leave to return to the boil and cook for 8-10 minutes. Check and stir every couple of minutes.
Add white wine to the mushroom mixture and stir in, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze (get all the good stuff that's stuck on there). When most of the wine has cooked off, add cream and goat cheese and stir through. Lower the heat on the pan to lowest setting while you deal with draining the pasta.
When pasta is al dente, scoop out about 1 cup pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain pasta and return to the pan in which you cooked it.
Return your attention to the mushroom mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings, then add the second installment of butter and toss to mix through.
Combine pasta and mushroom mixture in whichever pan is easiest to mix in, and toss thoroughly. Add a splash or two of pasta cooking water, if you wish, to bring the whole thing together.
Serve immediately. Serves 4 adults with some left over.