From The River Cafe Cook Book by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers (Ebury Press, 1995)
75g dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled & sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 dried chilli, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
800g tinned plum tomatoes, drained of juices
120ml double cream
120g Parmesan, freshly grated
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic gently for a few minutes with the thyme leaves, most of the parsley and the chilli. Add the porcini and cook for a few more minutes to combine the flavours. Add the porcini liquid a little at a time – it will be absorbed very quickly – and continue simmering until the porcini are tender, approximately 20 minutes.
Add the lemon juice, then the tomatoes. Cook together gently until the tomatoes have thickened and become a sauce, about 30 minutes. Add the cream and reduce very briefly by boiling. Season, then remove from the heat and stir in half the Parmesan.
Cook the conchiglie in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly. Add to the sauce with most of the remaining Parmesan and stir well. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley and Parmesan and a dribble of extra virgin olive oil.
Before rushing out of the door for work this morning, I had a quick browse of The River Cafe Cook Book to find a quickish pasta dish for dinner, jotted down the shopping list and was on my way. What I had failed to clock was a) the volumes of oil, cream and Parmesan involved for a Wednesday night supper and b) the cooking time.
Whilst certainly indulgent, it filled the hole created by a day out and about in London. The cooking time wasn’t unbearable, especially when accompanied by a cold glass of white, but wasn’t the speedy dish I had hoped for. Well worth it though – the dried porcini mushrooms were extremely tender, where with minimal cooking time I often find them chewy.
Not being able to lay my hands on any whole chilli, I substitued with a little too much dried crushed chilli (1 tsp when probably 1/2 tsp would have sufficed) and felt that perhaps the juice of half a lemon would have done the job. Being in a bit of a rush I poured the whole lot in, where a more patient cook may have added a little at a time, tasting along the way. The acidic lemon and pungent chilli ended up masking the earthy mushroom flavour somewhat, and were certainly the first hit of flavour with each fork, which was a bit of a shame.
I had my doubts about this stretching to 6 servings, with only 250g of pasta in the ingredients list. I upped this to 300g and there was a generous amount of sauce to go around still. As a main dish, rather than as a pasta course in an Italian meal, I would say this serves 4-5, with the amended amount of pasta. Feeling slightly ashamed at the amount of grated Parmesan that went in, I also omitted the final sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil.
Verdict: a hearty and tasty pasta dish – when cooked exactly by the book I’m sure it would be an excellent addition to anyone’s pasta repertoire.