Saturday, 1 October 2011

Hen-Pecked Pasta

Linguine con Funghi del Bosco, Spinaci, Pomodori Secchi e Olive
Linguini with "Hen of the Woods" Mushrooms, Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomato & Olives 

Now isn't that just the weirdest sounding name of a mushroom that you ever heard? The German name is funnier still: "Fette Henne", which translates as "Fat Hen"- how could I possibly resist after seeing that signs at out local market hall? You're right... I couldn't! Today all of the dealers had them- they are in season for a short time only... so I picked a couple of small ones and decided to try them out. I say small, because there were some on show that were literally the size of a cauliflower... they can get to be large mushrooms!

The one I used for this dish was about the size of a grapefruit and very, very pretty- I a sure you will agree. Of course it is a little tricky to clean- but I had to make a little exception to my rule of not washing mushrooms. I always peel the outer layer of skin from mushrooms rather than washing them- that way they do not become squidgy and waterlogged. With this one I was lucky as it was relatively clean and only needed a quick rinse. I broke it into smaller segments and fried them in a little clarified butter, with a few slices of garlic, salted and peppered them and set them to one side.

Next, I sautéed the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes and olives together, but used olive oil instead. I seasoned them generously with nutmeg, a little cayenne pepper and more finely chopped garlic.

I set these to one side too and put the linguini on to boil for 5-6 minutes, which is all it takes for us to make those crispy breadcrumbs. Put the breadcrumbs into a frying pan and start toasting them. One they start to brown, add some finely chopped parsley, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper as well as a little lemon zest. Stir constantly and try to get everything looking golden and brown. Now you can drain the linguini and we can start putting this dish together...

Drain the noodles in a colander and then add them to the spinach, tomato and olive mix.
Let the noodles continue cooking in the milky mix of flavors. As the pasta gets closer to
being ready, it will become creamy due to the starch it will be giving off- so all we need to add is a little good olive oil and then we will be ready to serve! Well... that's not quite true... because there is one secret, special ingredient that I like to use on this kind of dish and that is Mushroom Ketchup. This is an ages old product from England- nut a sweet, tomato creation for children to dip their french fries into- no, no! This is a think liquid reduction of fermented mushroom- similar in its application to soy or Worcestershire sauce. It gives a fuller mushroom flavor and adds a little seasoning- I really love it!

Serve with a good dusting of crispy breadcrumbs, a few shavings of Grana Padano, some freshly ground pepper... and Buon Apetito! A quick, seasonal and tasty dish in the blink of an eye!


  1. I've got to try to find those fat hens. They really are gorgeous. And what could be better than mushrooms and pasta for a cool Autumn evening? Nothing I can think of...

  2. Except mushrooms and pasta and someone to share with! Sigh! At least I shared "virtually"- lol! Glad you liked it Frank- and yes, those mushrooms are really nice for a change...