That meal at Trullo a couple of weeks ago was really inspiring. It was exactly the type of food that I love eating and making. It got me thinking about my own cooking, and as soon as I got home I scribbled down a long list of new things that I wanted to make. Panna cottas and roasted fish will be made in the future, but for now I really wanted to make some pasta. This isn’t anything new, making pasta is a bit of an obsession of mine, but it got me thinking about new varieties and ingredients to serve it with.
I didn’t have to think too hard about what was going to be bedfellows with my fresh pasta. Autumn is such a visual month for seasonal produce, and my local greengrocer is an explosion of colour. Multi-coloured pumpkins and beetroots line the shelves, but for this recipe I went straight for the chard. A more beautiful leafy vegetable is hard to imagine, with vibrant pink and orange running in thick veins into dark green. Chard offers a way more interesting taste and texture to something more often used like spinach, and it is just perfect for this recipe. I like to cut the stalks away from the leaves and cook these for longer, as the leaves only take a minute or two. Bacon is the perfect partner, and make sure you get good smoked bacon from your butchers to bounce off the tangy greens.
I found the variety of pasta to make a bit more challenging. I really like spaghetti and pappardelle, but I realised that I have flogged these to death in this blog and wanted to do something a little different. I recently saw something that looked like homemade penne on a tv programme and thought that this would be just the opportunity to give it a go. It’s actually really easy, and once you get used to it is fairly quick; just like making lots of tiny cannellonis. The shape works really well with this recipe, as the flavoured oil, cheese and bits of bacon get stuck in the middles.
The final bit of inspiration gained this week was from reading the new Pit Cue Co cookbook. Although there isn’t even a hint of a pasta strand amongst all the amazing looking barbecue food, there are still techniques in there that can be transferred to other cooking. One recipe in the book is for courgettes with grated Tunworth Soft Cheese. Tunworth is a really incredible English camembert-style cheese, truly pungent yet mellow and flavoursome. I had never thought of grating a soft cheese, but in the book it is frozen to make it hard enough. The tangy cheese works brilliantly with the rest of the ingredients in this recipe, but use it sparingly. It is a case of finding the balance of flavours and not overpowering the chard, which is really the star of the show.
For the pasta:
200g ‘00’ grade flour
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
A large pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
For the saffron and chilli oil:
200ml olive oil
A large pinch of saffron
½ a lemon, zest only
2-5 small dried chillies (to taste), finely chopped
A little salt
For the chard:
3 large stalks of rainbow chard, leaves ripped into pieces and stalks cut into thin sticks
2 slices smoked streaky bacon, thinly sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 glass of dry white wine
½ a lemon, juice only
Salt and pepper
30g Tunworth Soft Cheese, frozen
Make the pasta dough by adding the flour, 2 eggs, salt and oil to a food processor, and mixing until the contents resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Tip out onto a clean surface and knead the mixture into a dough, continuing for 5-10 minutes until smooth and very elastic in texture. Wrap with cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
To make the flavoured oil, add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and heat up until just too hot to touch. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan with clingfilm and allow to cool.
When the pasta dough has rested, roll it through the widest setting of a pasta machine a number of times, until the dough is smooth, firm and shiny on every pass. Dust with flour, then roll down through each setting until it passes through the second thinnest; number 5 on an Imperia machine. Cut the long sheet into rectangles approx 3” x 1.5” in size. Brush a little of the beaten egg along one of the long edges, then carefully roll each piece into a tube, with just a millimetre of two overlapping. Gently seal the joint from the inside with a skewer, then put on a greaseproof sheet and allow to dry for about an hour.
Put a large saucepan of well-salted water on to boil.
When the water has nearly boiled, heat a large frying pan to a medium temperature and add a little olive oil. Fry the bacon until it starts to crisp, then add the shallot, garlic and a little seasoning. When the shallot is tender add the chard stalks and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat up slightly then pour in the white wine and allow to boil and bubble.
At this point, add the penne tubes to the boiling water and cook for two minutes.
As soon as the pasta goes in, add the chard leaves to the frying pan. Cook for two minutes, by which time the pasta should be just cooked. Transfer the pasta to the frying pan using a slotted spoon, squeeze the lemon juice and sprinkle over some seasoning. Grate over half of the Tunworth and combine the frying pan mixture well.
To serve, spoon the pasta and chard into shallow bowls and drizzle over some of the chilli and saffron oil. Grate over move of the cheese and sprinkle some cracked black pepper.