I went out to dinner a while ago, and had the most amazing, relatively simple, but delicious dish – fresh handmade pasta with a rich mushroom sauce. This is my attempt at the same thing, and I think I’ve come pretty close!
Pappardelle is wide ribbon pasta. I think it’s worth making your own (you don’t need anything more complicated than a food processor, a rolling pin and a little patience) and the result really is quite different to anything you can buy, but if making your own is ‘one step too far’, you can buy fresh lasagne sheets and cut them into strips 2-3cm wide.
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large (60–65g each) eggs
additional flour or water if required
Measure the flour and salt into a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. With the motor running, add the eggs one at a time. After the last egg is added the dough should look like crumbs for a few seconds, then form a ball. If the dough has not formed a ball gradually add a little water (teaspoon by teaspoon) until it does, or if it looks too sticky, add 1–2 tablespoons additional flour.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench, knead for a couple of minutes, then cover and leave it to stand for 10–15 minutes before rolling.
Cut the dough into three pieces, leave one out to work with and cover the others. Working on a lightly floured surface (use only just enough flour to prevent sticking at all stages), begin to roll the dough into a thin sheet, turning and rotating it frequently. (Using a pasta machine makes this much faster if you have one.)
When it seems the sheet won’t stretch any more, set it aside and move onto the next piece, then return to it later. (This lets the dough sheets ‘relax’, making them easier to roll out.)
Continue to roll the sheets until each is about 2–3mm thick (don’t stop too soon, they will swell quite a lot during cooking), then set them aside for a few minutes before cutting. To cut long pasta, loosely roll up each sheet (square up edges first if you like) and working with a sharp knife, cut the roll (crosswise) into slices of the desired width – 1.5–2cm for pappardelle. Each slice should then unroll to make a long ribbon.
2 -3 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
200g Portobello mushrooms
200g button mushrooms
1/4 cup medium or dry sherry
about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, plus a little to garnish
about 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup cream
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon truffle infused oil (optional)*
Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large pan. Add the finely chopped onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, over a medium heat until the onion has softened.
While the onion cooks, cut the mushrooms into slices about 5mm thick, then gently stir them to the pan, if they look very dry, add the extra oil. Continue to cook stirring occasionally until the mushrooms soften, then add the sherry and herbs. Toss to mix, then when the sherry has mostly evaporated, stir in the cream. Allow the sauce to boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 3- 5 minutes longer before seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and adding the infuse oil. Keep the sauce warm while you cook the pasta.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook uncovered for 3–5 minutes (depending on how thin you rolled the pasta). Drain the cooked pasta, then return it to the cooking pot. Sprinkle it with a little exrta olive oil, then add the sauce and stir gently until it is evenly distributed through the pasta.
Serve immediately garnished with a little extra basil and crusty bread and a green salad on the side,.
* Truffle infused (or flavoured) oil is now available at some larger supermarkets or speciality shops, and is remarkably reasonably priced – especially when you consider a little goes a long way. A teaspoons added to a sauce like this really adds extra dimension and intensity to the flavour, but if you don’t have it, just leave it out.
Photography: Lindsay Keats