Porcini powder. Porcini powder? Yes. From the farmers market. I was told it was wonderful, and was given a little bag as a gift. But what to do with the stuff, that’s the question. I’m not sure I made the right choice… This pasta dish had so much going on in it that the porcini flavor was hiding. It was hiding behind the sourdough breadcrumbs and butter it had been sprinkled into, and under the pancetta it had been tossed with, and between the fresh pasta noodles it had been swirled around with.
All that being said, this dish was dang good, if I do say so myself. There were a few elements, and it took a few pans to get it all prepped. So no, this is not one of those magical one pot meals. Certainly not.
My dear friend Elsa was staying with us, and my friend Dylan came over for dinner, as well as Elsa’s friend Sarah, so we had help in manning all the pans. Tamar Adler said in The Everlasting Meal that there is value in, when a guest asks “is there anything I can do to help?” being able to say, “yes.” I have found that to be very true.
Think of this recipe as a guideline. Or a lightly painted upon canvas. You can remove, add, flavor, sprinkle, drizzle anything you like. I must say, though, that I used a different pasta recipe this time, and I liked it much better than the one I had been using. There’s something to be said for trying something new.
Fresh Pasta with Pancetta, Leeks, & Breadcrumbs with Porcini Powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large or 2 small leek(s), sliced and rinsed
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Pancetta – the amount is up to you. I like the pancetta that is thin, almost like prosciutto, though that isn’t what we used here. I think if we’d used the thinner kind, it would’ve clung to the noodles better.
Salt and pepper
To make the pasta, pulse the flour alone in a food processor a few times. In a bowl, beat the eggs and then add them to flour, and process until the dough forms a ball. If your dough is dry and looks like little pea sized pieces of dough, you can add water 1/2 tsp at a time. If it sticks to the bowl of the processor, add flour 1 Tbl at a time. When the dough has formed a ball, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. Wrap the dough in saran wrap and set it aside for up to 2 hours to relax (at least 15 minutes). Then roll out the pasta as you usually do and cut it as you normally would.
In a pan over medium (or medium low), cook your pancetta, then set aside on a plate with a paper towel on it. Once the pancetta is removed, you can use that same pan to sautée the leeks, onion, and garlic, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. You may want to add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan to help keep things from sticking. But then again, maybe you won’t.
In another pan, melt some butter, then add the breadcrumbs and as much porcini powder as you feel like adding. Toast the breadcrumbs on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
As things are moving along, get out a big pot, fill it with water and a healthy serving of salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta (I like to cook fresh pasta in batches, as it makes it less likely to stick together). If you’re cooking fresh pasta, it really only needs to cook for a few minutes. I like to remove it when all the noodles are floating. Do you have a better method? I’d like to know it. If you’re cooking your pasta in batches, you can remove it with tongs into a colander to keep the water boiling on your stovetop.
Strain the pasta, put it in a bowl, and toss with all the various bits and pieces. Enjoy with a glass of buttery, nutty white wine and friends, around a table, on a sunny evening.