Baked pasta recipes are perfect for winter. This vegetarian version uses mushrooms to add a rich, umami flavour.
20 grams dried porcini mushrooms
75 grams butter
75 grams flour
2 cups milk
¼ teaspoon of grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons olive oil
20 grams butter, melted
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 kilogram large flat mushrooms – portobello
¼ cup each chopped flat leaf parsley and basil
250 grams pappardelle or other wide pasta
150 grams bocconcini or mozzarella in whey
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a muslin-lined sieve into a jug and set aside. Roughly chop the porcini.
Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a smooth paste. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes then whisk in the reserved porcini soaking water and the milk. Keep whisking until the sauce comes to the boil. Season well and add the nutmeg. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Mushrooms: Combine the oil, butter, rosemary and garlic in a large roasting pan. Slice the mushrooms thickly, add to the pan and toss to coat. It looks like a mountain of mushrooms but they reduce considerably when cooked. Season and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the porcini, stir together and cook for a further 5 minutes or until most of the liquid in the dish has evaporated. Mix in the parsley and basil.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until just cooked. Drain, refresh under cold water and toss with a little oil to stop it sticking together.
Fold the sauce, the mushrooms, (including any garlic etc in the pan), and the pasta together and divide between 6-8 baking dishes or one large baking dish.
Slice the bocconcini and lay it on top. Sprinkle generously with Parmesan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and hot.
Dried porcini mushrooms are readily available in small packets from specialty food stores or see page 136 to order.
Bocconcini: small balls of fresh mozzarella that come stored in whey. Drain before serving. Available in good supermarkets and specialty food stores.