Orecchiette pasta with mushrooms, spinach and pecorino.
You don't have to be vegetarian to fall in love with this rich, luscious pasta.
ORECCHIETTE PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS, SPINACH AND PECORINO
This is a cracking dish served with a salad, crusty bread and a good glass of wine. The mushroom sauce is great folded through risotto towards the end, when the rice is perfectly al dente. The sauce is also terrific with other pastas like spaghetti and fettuccine.
400g dried orecchiette
100g pecorino, shaved
extra virgin olive oil
small handful baby rocket leaves, to garnish
Mushroom cream sauce
30ml olive oil
20g unsalted butter
100g eschalots, finely sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
250g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
100ml dry white wine
10g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 50ml hot water, thoroughly rinsed, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves
450ml vegetable stock
1 bunch English spinach, leaves washed and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the orecchiette until al dente, strain, and toss through some olive oil. Set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan and cook the eschalots over a low heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and button mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms have softened. Add the wine and simmer until liquid has evaporated.
Add the porcini mushrooms, thyme leaves and stock, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Stir through the cream and spinach and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Remove sauce from heat and check the seasoning.
Serve sauce into bowls over the orecchiette with a good sprinkle of the pecorino and ground black pepper, and garnish with baby rocket leaves.
You'll need a thermometer for the nougat: they're cheap and very handy if you like baking. The higher the temperature you use to heat the sugar, the harder it sets.
60g whole blanched almonds
2 cups caster sugar
1 cup liquid glucose
1/2 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g butter, roughly chopped
Makes about 48 pieces
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place the almonds on an oven tray and bake for approximately 5 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.
Put the sugar, liquid glucose, honey, salt and water in a pan, stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to boil and cook until the temperature reaches 122°C (use a sugar thermometer) and a small amount of syrup forms a hard ball when dropped in cold water. This should take about 8 minutes.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Pour a quarter of the hot syrup in a thin stream over the egg whites, beating constantly. Continue beating for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.
Cook the remaining syrup to 157°C for about 5 minutes, until a small amount of syrup forms brittle threads when dropped in cold water. Pour the remainder of the hot syrup over the meringue in a thin stream, beating constantly until the mixture is very thick. Add the vanilla extract and butter and beat for about 5 minutes or until thick again.
Stir in the toasted almonds with a wooden spoon. Turn the mixture into a greased 28cm x 18cm lamington tin, and smooth the top with a spatula. Refrigerate until firm.
Loosen the edges of the nougat all around, turn out in a large block. With a sharp knife, cut the nougat into 4cm x 2.5cm pieces.
Wrap each piece individually in cellulose paper or waxed paper. Store in the fridge.
SOMETHING TO DRINK
Seek out a classic Italian variety: the 2007 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Sangiovese ($50), from SA's Barossa Valley, has rhubarb, prune and spice notes as well as firm tannins. A sure delight with this dish's Italian flavours.