Her mother's from Brazil, she grew up in Italy and her grandfather lived in Mexico – Ottolenghi protégé Ixta Belfrage fuses her background into her food in her cookbook Mezcla: Recipes to Excite, which celebrates everyday eating with built-in wow factor.
This porcini ragu is no exception. Of it, she says: "I'm not sure if you're allowed to call a sauce that doesn't contain meat, doesn't start with a soffritto, and that only cooks for 10 minutes a ragù, and yet because of the concentrated flavour of the dried porcini, this has all the intensity of a meat ragù that has simmered for hours.
"Anyone who has made the spicy mushroom lasagne from Ottolenghi Flavour will realise what I'm trying to achieve here: an abridged version of that ragù with the same intensity but without the hours chopping kilos of mushrooms (yes, I heard you!). This recipe is inspired by two of my favourite dishes at Ristorante Pizzeria Acone near where I grew up in Tuscany – penne all'Aconese and tagliatelle alla Beppa."
|4 Tbsp||olive oil, plus extra to serve|
|3 cloves||garlic, very finely chopped (not crushed!)|
|½ tsp||chilli flakes (or less if you prefer)|
|10g||fresh parsley (stalks and leaves), finely chopped, plus extra to serve|
|1/3 tsp||fine salt|
|1½ Tbsp||tomato purée/paste|
|50 twists||freshly ground black pepper|
|250g||dried tagliatelle nests|
|40g||parmesan, very finely grated, plus extra to serve|
|3 Tbsp||double cream|
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- In a medium bowl, cover the porcini with boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 75g of the soaking liquid. Very finely chop the porcini to mince consistency, then set aside.
- Put the oil, garlic, chilli flakes, parsley and fine salt into a cold, large sauté pan on a medium-low heat. Very gently fry for 5 minutes until soft and lightly golden, turning the heat down if the garlic starts to brown.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, then add the chopped porcini, tomato purée/paste and plenty of pepper. Stir-fry for 3 minutes, then set the pan aside while you boil the pasta.
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, until al dente. Drain, reserving 350g of the pasta water.
- Return the sauté pan with the porcini to a medium-high heat, then add the 350g of pasta water and the reserved 75g of porcini soaking liquid. Stir, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, leave to bubble away for 3 minutes.
- Add half the parmesan to the pan, stirring until it has melted before adding the rest. Lower the heat to medium, then stir in the cream, followed by the drained tagliatelle. Toss over the heat until the pasta and sauce have emulsified – about 1½ minutes.
- Remove from the heat and serve at once, finished with as much extra oil and parmesan as your heart desires.
Notes: It's always good to have all your prep done before you start cooking, but it's especially important with this recipe, as things happen rather quickly. Make sure you have your porcini soaked and finely chopped, garlic and parsley finely chopped, and your parmesan finely grated before you turn the heat on.
Edited extract from Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage. Published by Ebury Press. RRP $65