I like to keep different shapes of pasta in my cupboard as although pasta is basically the same ingredient whatever the shape, different shapes do seem to fit some sauces better than others. Tonight I chose farfalle – which comes from the Italian word, farfalla, meaning butterfly. ‘A’ at the end of an Italian word (feminine) changes to ‘e’ in the plural – hence, farfalle. The shape dates back to the 16th century and originated in northern Italy. It has always – for some reason that I can’t name – been one of my favourites. Perhaps although I didn’t know for a long time that the word meant butterfly, the lightness and prettiness of the shape appealed to me. And this dish, despite the addition of some cream, is a light dish suitable for any time of the year.
In my ‘Single Gourmet Traveller cooking at home’ mode that’s been prevalent this week, this is another recipe that’s easy to put together and very quick – thus, once again, you need to gather all the ingredients together before you start. But as with all of my ‘ideal for one’ recipes, they can also double up, treble up and indeed serve many more.
First of all, get the salted water boiling for the pasta and then add the farfalle, cooking it on a roiling boil so that it doesn’t stick together (I allow about 75-100g per person). Follow the instructions on the pack – mine said 12 minutes cooking time. While it cooks add a small chopped onion (or half a medium one) and 1 crushed garlic clove to a large frying pan with about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 25g butter. I like to use butter as well as olive oil for this as there’s nothing quite like the combination of butter and mushrooms – yum! Once the onion has started to soften (3-5 mins), add 70g chopped pancetta (or bacon). Once the pancetta has coloured, added the sliced mushrooms – I used about 4-5 good-sized chestnut ones. Certainly choose ones with a good flavour – not those awful white button ones that taste of nothing. Stir regularly, folding over so everything gets evenly cooked.
Once the mushrooms have coloured and cooked through (just – don’t cook to a mush), add a big handful of chopped parsley and stir. Mushrooms and parsley are another delightful combination. Now add a good glug of dry vermouth or white wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes. If your pasta is cooked by now, drain it and have it ready.
Now add a good glug of single cream and stir. Allow to bubble back to the boil briefly and check the seasoning. You may not need much salt depending on the saltiness of the pancetta, but lots of freshly grated black pepper is wonderful with the dish. Turn off the heat. Tip in the cooked farfalle and mix together. Now grate over a good amount of Parmesan cheese. I’m often sniffy on these pages about the English addiction to adding Parmesan to every pasta dish – it’s often inappropriate, e.g. with most fish sauces – but Parmesan with this pancetta, cream and mushroom dish is essential, adding a wonderful salty creaminess and depth to the flavours. I like to add it in the pan and mix together rather than just grate it over the top, so it’s nicely mixed in.
Now it’s ready to serve. It was actually a bit too much for me so there’s a little bit of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. But I think my son would have managed it all! I served it with a side salad of radicchio leaves, lamb’s lettuce and rocket, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I love radicchio with its gorgeous bitter taste but it’s become very difficult to find it in UK now, though once was readily available. Fortunately, Waitrose keep putting it in their organic seasonal salad pack – so that’s what I had! Radicchio is eaten a lot in Italy so adds to the Italian mood – as did a nice glass of Primitivo. Buon appetito!