Friday, 6 November 2015

Gino D'Acampo's Spicy Pasta with Porcini Mushrooms and Cannellini Beans

I have a tendency with pasta recipes to go for the tomato-based sauces.  There's something satisfying about the sweetness and how difficult it is to mess them up.  Perfect after-work food.  However, I need to branch out a little.  Looking through Gino's Italian diet book, I found a recipe for a classic Neapolitan recipe of spicy pasta with cannellini beans.

This jumped out at me partially because it involves using dried porcini mushrooms.  The point of me starting this blog was to encourage me to make recipes that challenge my OCD around food.  Mushrooms are one of my horror ingredients - I never used to be able to touch them, let alone eat or cook with them.  Over time, I've been able to get comfortable with them more and more in my diet, but cooking them still causes me some stress.  It seemed to me that trying out the dried mushrooms might be less stressful than working with their fresh (and muddy) brethren.  And so it was.

OCD Panic Rating: 1/5
Handwashes: 1

This recipe was a relatively simple one to put together.  I had to soak the mushrooms and defrost some peas while I was prepping the other ingredients, then it was a case of frying them off, cooking some pasta, and mixing it all at the end.

It's quite a savoury dish.  You have the deep flavour of the porcini mushrooms as well as a glug of the water they were soaked in, plus some vegetable stock.  There is a bit of freshness and sweetness from the leek, peas and the wine, and a hit of spice from the chilli flakes, but the overall taste is very different to the tomatoey sauces I'd go for.  It was satisfying though, feeling almost adult compared to the big, bold flavours of a bolognese or lasagne.

It looked ok.  Like many pasta dishes, it's just a mess of food, and I do not have the photographer chops to make it look any better:

The important thing was that dealing with the mushrooms did not send me into an OCD tailspin.  You have to drain them carefully after you've soaked them because you can get some yucky sediment in your pasta otherwise, but the texture was good and they had that lovely woody flavour.  I doubt I'll ever be comfortable with unusual or handpicked mushrooms (I'm always paranoid that someone will've made a mistake and given me something poisonous...) but chucking a few chestnut mushers or a handful of buttons into a pan is now in my wheelhouse.  Not the best meal I've ever made but well worth it for the satisfaction of getting one over on my brain!

Key Points:

  • If a recipe asks you to reserve the water from soaked mushrooms, make sure you don't just tip it in.  There will be gritty bits that you don't want in your food.
  • Be careful with the chilli flakes!  It's a simple recipe so an overdose of spice will upset the balance quite dramatically.  Mine was on the upper end of acceptable...
Win Rating: 3/5

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