Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Penne with Porcini, Tarragon and Tomato Cream

When I made the vague plan for the week on Friday night I fancied salad for a supper - probably Tuesday. Fresh, easy and in the freezer I had some duck fritons - essentially duck scratchings which, when warmed through are utterly sublime atop a salad, perhaps with a poached egg. Great idea - but then Friday was quite mild. Seems like spring is here.

Come Tuesday and it's a different story. Cold - and I mean really cold with a bitter wind and sleety rain and suddenly salad was a much less attractive option. Didn't have vast amounts in - we are out a couple of nights this week and away for the weekend and I do hate to waste. It struck me that pasta was a good option - had some bits to make a good sauce and we've not had much pasta lately so it could be a treat.

I assembled some bits when I got in. Tinned tomatoes because that's often a good place to start - good warm colour as well as adding flavour. A small tub of cream from the freezer to provide a luxurious version of comfort. I always have garlic and Parmesan in the kitchen, as well as dried chillies, used sparingly for spiced warmth. There is usually some dried porcini in a jar. I had no parsley but did have a small bunch of tarragon leftover from making a bean salad and the first of the new sage leaves had appeared on the plant in the garden. Bound to be able to make something out of that lot!

Penne with Porcini, Tarragon and Tomato Cream
A small handful of dried porcini, soaked in 200ml hot water for about 30 minutes
50g unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 dried chillies, crushed
2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon and sage - about 1 of each
400g tin of tomatoes
150ml thick cream
250g penne
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Strain the softened porcini reserving the liquid. Heat the butter in a small pan and add garlic, chillies and herbs. Stir on a gentle heat for a minute or two till the garlic softens. Add the porcini and a little of the soaking water. As the liquid disappears add more, stirring as you go, till it is all absorbed. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up and cook at a medium heat for about half an hour. You want a thickish sauce. Season.

Cook the pasta according to instructions. About 3 minutes before it is al dente add the cream to the sauce and stir thoroughly still on a medium heat.

Strain the cooked penne and add to the sauce along with the grated Parmesan and mix till the pasta is well coated.

Serve in large bowls. Salad optional!


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