A late convert to cooking pasta like risotto, I love the way the starch in the pasta can thicken into a sauce. It is possible to add nothing more than oil. This is the pasta version of possibly my favourite risotto. The measurements for the size of pan and amount of water are just to get you started. They will vary depending on your pasta brand and, once you’ve got the feel of cooking pasta like this, please judge by eye.
Penne and Porcini Cooked Like Risotto
Penne Porcini E Zafferano
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stick, cut into 1cm slices
10g dried porcini
1 parsley sprig
pinch saffron fronds
knob of butter (optional)
50g grated Parmesan
sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil
Bring 3 litres of water to the boil with the garlic cloves, celery, porcini and parsley, plus a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer until the garlic is very soft, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the pasta and saffron.
Simmer and keep stirring so the pasta cooks evenly. It should take a minute or two longer than it would normally. The idea is for almost all of the liquid to evaporate evenly as the pasta cooks. It is better to keep the pan on the dry side and turn the pasta over in order to cook uniformly than have it too wet. Add a ladleful of water from time to time if needed.
When thick and cooked, add a drizzle of oil, or indeed a knob of butter if you’d rather, and the cheese and stir. Allow to sit for 3 minutes with a lid on before serving so that the sauce finishes thickening and soaks even more into the penne.
Extracted from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli (Seven Dials, approx €28).