Ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine


 
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine

I often find myself standing in the kitchen at dinner preparation time, totally unmotivated and underwhelmed. I make food, write about food, photograph food and eat food for a good part of the day, so by the time it gets to dinner, I often can't be bothered to make anything. It is for this reason that I like to have a solid repertoire of recipes up my sleeve that come together quickly, don't require a special trip to the supermarket, and give us a nice little variety. We often have things such as home-made pizza, slow-cooked chilli, or a quick pasta thrown together with ingredients from the fridge. I usually have a fairly diverse range of vegetables on hand, so can usually throw something together. Sometimes the end result is questionable, but we get there in the end.

Everyone seems to be clinging on to spring at the moment here in the city. The greenmarket is the most amazing place to go - I often find myself on a manhattan bound train after my spin class in the mornings, taking me to the market instead of home. The early morning is the best time to go, as you get the first pickings of the produce, get time to chat with the farmers, and it's also the time when the chefs come in to pick up produce for their restaurants. I love watching them select vegetables, and always sneakily take note of the things that they go for first. 

One of my favourite things to do is to pick up a bunch of things that are in season, come home with them, and cook dinner on the fly. During the winter it was mainly root vegetables and pumpkin, meaning that we had loads of soup, gnocchi, pizzas, and rich meat-based pasta sauces. Spring vegetables have been slowly sneaking their way into the market - ramps, asparagus, spring garlic, oyster mushrooms. These all came home with me and made their way into a pasta dish with some white wine, quality parmesan, pasta water (fave ever), and finished off with some preserved lemon to add a little brightness. This dish took me about 20 minutes from start to finish - while the water is boiling you chop everything up, and fry it all off while the pasta is cooking. The skillet is deglazed quickly with some white wine, then the pasta is added along with some pasta water and parmesan. A quick toss and season and you are good to go. Wham, bam, thank you mam. Dinner on the table. Or in our case, collapsed on the couch with a terrible TV show in front of us.

A few wee notes:

  • Don't be put off by the name! You can fill this pasta dish with anything you have on hand - the majority of the base ingredients here are interchangeable. Sub ramps for shallots, spring garlic for a few cloves of regular garlic, oyster mushrooms for any other variety, and preserved lemon for a finely grated lemon zest. I make this very often and just sub in whatever I have on hand.
  • Make sure that you reserve the water from the pasta - you can transfer the pasta to the skillet using tongs, as you don't have to worry too much about draining it as the water ends up in there anyway.
  • Ensure you taste along the way - if you aren't using preserved lemon you will need to up the salt content a little. Make sure that you salt in levels rather than all at once at the end, as it helps give the dish a bigger depth of flavour. I love to finish dishes with a flaky sea salt such as maldon.
  • I used wholegrain linguine, but this will work with most types of pasta. Just make sure that you give the sauce a little time to emulsify at the end and coat everything nicely.
  • Adjust the amount of pasta depending on your serving size - for two people I usually use a small handful of linguine - the circumference is about the size of the circle that is made when I touch my thumb and pointer finger together. 
 

 

Ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine
- Serves 2 -

100-150g (depending on serving size) wholegrain linguine or other pasta
3 ramps, stems and leaves, finely chopped (alternatively use 2 shallots)
2 stems of spring garlic, white and light green sections only, finely chopped (or use two garlic cloves, finely chopped)
150g oyster mushrooms, or any other mushroom of your preference
250g fresh asparagus, trimmed and cleaned, chopped into 2" pieces (if it is not asparagus season, use broccoli, chopped into small florets, and add alongside the mushrooms)
Rind of half a preserved lemon, finely chopped, plus a few slices to garnish, or the zest of one lemon
1/3 cup (80ml) white wine
1/2 cup finely grated good quality parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to season

- PROCESS -

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While the water is coming to the boil, chop the vegetables. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the packet until al dente.

Heat a skillet or frying pan over high heat. Fry the ramps and garlic, along with a big pinch of salt, in a little olive oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry for another 2 minutes, adding a little more oil if necessary. Add the preserved lemon, cook for 30 seconds or so, then add the asparagus and cook for a further 30 seconds, until the asparagus is bright green. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the wine has begun to evaporate.

Transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet using tongs. Add the cheese and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss well using the tongs, until the 'sauce' emulsifies and coats the pasta. Continue adding pasta water as needed to help loosen. 

Pile the pasta onto serving dishes, season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and place a few slices of the preserved lemon on top. 

The perfect spring pasta - ramp, mushroom, asparagus, and preserved lemon linguine

Crispy prosciutto macaroni and cheese


 
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping
Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping

A few weeks ago, I had a prosciutto situation. We don't eat a huge amount of it, but every now and then we buy it for a kickass pesto-burrata-pesto-pizza situation. I tend to buy it freshly sliced, and up until recently I had bought it at whole foods. There's this awful woman who works there, who would easily win the award for slowest prosciutto slicer in the world. The first time I encountered her I had just come from the gym, and she hit me with "Oh, so you just went to the gym, and now you're buying prosciutto? Ok then. Whatever works for you", then proceeded to take the longest time in the world to slice me a quarter pound of the stuff. Not impressed. 

My second encounter (This is the most boring story ever), I did the usual, asked for a quarter pound, then started to wait. She said to me "If you have any other shopping to do, you could do it now and come back, because this is going to take a while". Judging from the last experience I took her word for it, did the rest of my shopping, and came back to find she had mis-heard me and cut one and a quarter pounds of prosciutto. It was a MOUNTAIN. And because I am too chicken to say anything, I took it from her, and hid it in the back of the fridge for fear of Rich judging me and my terrible track record of standing up for myself. 

So clearly, the only thing to do with it was to eat it! We had two pizza nights, and only made a tiny dent in pork mountain. The only option I had left was to put it into something that Rich inhales: Mac and cheese. Turns out if you pan fry prosciutto, it goes amazingly crispy, which is the perfect addition to mac and cheese! I used a mixture of cheddar cheese and mozzarella for this one, which added a nice stringy-ness, although you can really go ahead and use whatever cheese you like. This is the ultimate comfort food, something that friends often request when they are coming around for dinner. It is easy to make ahead - prepare it up to the stage where it is ready for the oven, then store in the fridge until ready to bake. Leftovers also heat up perfectly. 

I made this in four individual cocottes, which works perfectly for us because I suck at sharing. A 9x9 baking dish would also work too. 

 

 

Crispy Prosciutto macaroni and cheese
- Serves 4-6 people -

1/4 lb (115g) prosciutto
11oz (300g) medium pasta shells
4 Tbsp (60g) butter
4 Tbsp (36g) flour
3 cups (730ml) milk
5 oz (140g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5 oz (140g) mozzarella cheese, grated
4 oz (120g) parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup (25g) panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup (55g) regular bread crumbs

 

- PROCESS -

Preheat oven to 400˚f/200˚c. In a frying pan over medium to high heat, fry the prosciutto slices until crispy. Remove and leave to cool. Roughly chop and set aside. 

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Drain and set aside. 

While the pasta is cooking, in a large pot over high heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook until foamy. Continue to cook for a further 30 seconds - 1 minute. Turn the heat to low and, whisking constantly, slowly add the milk. Return the heat to high and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, until thickened. Season well with salt and pepper. 

Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the cheddar, mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese. Stir well until the cheese has melted and the sauce is homogenous. Taste and season again if necessary. Add the cooked pasta and chopped prosciutto to the pot, and stir well to combine. Pour into baking dish / dishes. 

Combine the panko breadcrumbs, regular breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the surface of the pasta. 

Place the baking dish on a baking sheet, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. 

Crispy prosciutto mac and cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping

Truffle Spaghetti


 

Our exciting news for the week - we got a fresh truffle! I decided to splash out and buy one, just to have a play around with! We had amazing memories of this one spaghetti dish we ate during a tasting menu for my birthday dinner at Recette in West Village. It was NEXT LEVEL. The dish consisted of a super simple spaghetti, in a light sauce. The show stopper though was when the waitress came out with a fresh truffle and a shaver, and proceeded to drown each of our plates in layers of fresh black truffle. It was hands down one of the best dishes I have ever eaten. We vowed to try and go back and have the same dish again, but each time we returned, it was either out of season, or they weren't serving it that evening.

 The restaurant has since closed down, so seeing as we weren't able to go back and have it in real life, this was the next best option!  While ordering a truffle isn't something I am going to do on the regular, this was a huge treat to do just once! 

The trick to making this dish amazing is to use freshly cooked spaghetti, and high quality ingredients. There aren't many ingredients in the dish, so you need to make sure that each one is amazing on it's own to ensure that each element shines in the dish. If you don't have a pasta maker, you can buy fresh spaghetti from the supermarket, or use a high quality dried version. I use my food processor to make the pasta dough, as it is a quick and easy way to bring it together. I then use a pasta attachment on my kitchenaid mixer. 

If you haven't made fresh pasta before, I highly suggest you give it a try! It is super simple, far less intimidating than it looks, and a real crowd pleaser. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes something that is super easy to throw together with ingredients you most likely already have on hand (eggs and flour!). I am almost willing to bet that I could make a dough, roll it out, and cut pasta in less time than it would take me to walk to the shop and buy a boxed version. The dough is extremely versatile, and can be used for everything from lasagne to bow-ties. That being said, I can never go past a super simple lunch made with dried spaghetti. All the carbs. All the time. Can't go wrong.

What helps to keep it simple is the 'secret' ingredient - the cooking water from the pasta. As the spaghetti cooks, the cooking water becomes starchy, which means that it is the perfect ingredient to help emulsify a sauce, and to act as a medium on which a sauce can be based on. Pasta water is super under-rated - I always add it to the pan if I am combining the pasta with the sauce directly on the element, as it helps to bind everything together beautifully. I often throw together a quick dinner of pasta, tossed with some pasta water, good quality cheese, and whatever vegetables we have in the fridge that need using up. For this particular recipe, I added a little white wine to the sauce to help add a little depth of flavour. If you don't have any on hand, then you can simply omit it. 

If you don't have truffle (Let's be real here, nobody is ever going to have a fresh truffle kicking around in their fridge), this dish is also incredible finished with some chilli flakes and fresh lemon zest, or any other flavours you may like to add to it. Jazz it up however you like! I promise you will love it.

 

 

Truffle Spaghetti
- Serves 3-4 -

Spaghetti
2 cups (290g) All-purpose flour
3 large eggs
water to bind

Spaghetti 'Sauce'
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup (240ml) spaghetti cooking water, divided
1/4 cup (60ml) white wine
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup (150g) freshly grated, good quality parmesan cheese (such as parmigiano reggiano) 
Freshly shaved truffle, to taste (optional, sub in chilli flakes and lemon zest, or any finishing flavour of your choice)

 

- PROCESS -

SPAGHETTI

In the work bowl of a food processor, place the flour and eggs. Pulse until incorporated - it should resemble chunky cous cous, and should hold together when you pinch some between your fingers. If it is a little dry, add water a teaspoon at a time and pulse to combine. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, and press together into a large disc. Rest at room temperature for 30 mins to an hour. 

Divide the dough into five or six pieces. Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the others well covered, run the dough through the rollers of a pasta machine on the widest setting. Pass it through the rollers on the widest setting 4 or 5 times, folding it up between each pass to help develop the dough. Once you have given it several passes on the widest setting, begin decreasing the width of the rollers with each pass. You do not need to fold the dough on the thinner width passes. Continue rolling, decreasing the width, until you are on about the fourth or fifth widest setting of your pasta machine (for me this is a number four or five, but I know that some pasta machines count in the opposite direction). 

Switch to the spaghetti cutting attachment on your pasta machine. Pass the dough through carefully, catching the noodles that come out of the machine. Arrange on a pasta drying rack. 

Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, until it is all cut into noodles. 

COOKING THE SPAGHETTI AND SAUCE

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 Tbsp salt, and bring to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, have a large skillet on another element ready to prepare the sauce and toss the cooked spaghetti. 

Add the spaghetti to the salted water, and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until al dente. (If you are using dried pasta, follow the cooking instructions). 

While the spaghetti is cooking, melt the butter in the large skillet over a high heat. Add a few grinds of pepper. Once the spaghetti has been cooking for at least two minutes (to allow the water to become starchy), add half a cup of the cooking water to the skillet, along with the white wine. Bring to a boil, and stir until it emulsifies, approximately 2 minutes. Continue to stir while the spaghetti finishes cooking. 

Once the spaghetti is al dente, transfer it to the skillet using tongs. Lower the heat to medium low. Add the cheese, and toss well with the tongs to combine. Add another half a cup of cooking water, and toss again, until the spaghetti is well coated in sauce, approximately one minute. 

Place in serving bowls, and garnish with the freshly shaved truffle. Serve immediately.