savoy, porcini and pancetta penne

one of my weekly treats is reading the ft weekend magazine, which includes a couple of food and drink themed articles, including a regular column by rowley leigh. his writing is always thoughtful and even if the recipe doesn’t appeal i often learn something or am sent on a foodie journey, using his writing as inspiration. 

a recent article extolled the virtues of dried mushrooms and their “dense rich flavour from the opening salvo” which means they are a wonderful store cupboard ingredient especially at this time of year when root vegetables have lost their appeal but spring vegetables are not yet in sight. 

david is not a big fan of mushrooms which means they often slip to the back of my mind or are just used in a  default and mindless way (usually to oomph up lentil dishes),  but this article combined with an evening home alone, prompted me to give rowley’s recipe – pennette with ceps*, cabbage and bacon – a try.

needless to say i adapted the recipe but the one thing i clung to was a desire to make the dried mushrooms the star of the dish. it works really well and is a good variation on my existing repertoire of cabbage-based pasta dishes – with pancetta and mozzarella or sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. just make sure you use a flavoursome cabbage – savoy is a good default choice – which can stand up to the mushrooms and the pancetta. if you want to make a vegetarian version, use strips of sundried tomatoes instead of the pancetta.

*ceps = porcini – they are the same thing; ceps is the french name, porcini the italian 

i’m sharing this dish with pia of cook healthy who is this week’s host of presto pasta nights!

savoy, porcini and pancetta penne** (serves 2)

25g dried porcini

penne for two

½ a small savoy cabbage, thinly sliced with the stem section removed

25g butter

80g smoked pancetta cubes or chopped rashers

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

a small amount of chopped red chilli (optional, or you can use chilli flakes)

parmesan, to serve

soak the mushrooms in 100ml warm water for at least 30 minutes. remove the softened mushrooms from the water (keep this you will need it later) and chop roughly. put the pasta on to cook – add the cabbage 10 minutes before the pasta will be ready.

melt the butter and add the pancetta – fry over a gentle heat and when this starts to crisp up add the garlic and chilli and lower the heat. cook until the garlic has softened then add the mushrooms and fry gently for 3-5 minutes. add the mushroom water and leave to simmer over a gentle heat. add the cooked pasta and cabbage, stir, season well and serve with parmesan.

** based on a rowley leigh recipe