Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday Fungus: The Italian Pasta Rule

Not sure this has an awful lot to do with mushrooms but one of my less embarrassing dark secrets is a youth spent playing simulation wargames - in the days before all this computer malarkey. And the daddy of the WWII games was, of course, Campaign for North Africa - this was the wargame anorak's delight, the single most complex and involved paper wargame ever devised. Let's set aside that it was almost impossible to play - SPI, the designers, said 1,800 hours to complete and I reckon this was an underestimate!

The game did detail and without doubt the most important bit of detail - the rule to beat all rules - was the Italian Pasta Rule. Meant as something of a joke (according to dear old Wikipedia) this rule decreed that Italian troops moved slower because they had to carry extra water supplies in order to cook the pasta! Brilliant!

Which I guess brings us to spaghetti carbonara - and in this case a version with a mushroom of two added! Carbonara is one of the really classic pasta sauces - simplicity itself: spaghetti, pancetta, garlic, egg. The sort of sauce the charcoal burner could cook in the woods (assuming he'd complied with the pasta rule, of course). I add chestnut mushrooms because they add so much to the woody, smoky bacon sauce.

To make carbonara you'll need:

Spaghetti (about half a typical pack will stuff two folk)
Pancetta (the little cubes are good if you can't find a deli with the real stuff to slice)
Clove of garlic
2 eggs
Salt & black pepper
Half a dozen small chestnut mushrooms

Boil salted water and cook the spaghetti (for one minute less than it says on the packet or else it will go all sticky and horrid).

While this is happening chop up the pancetta and mushrooms into small cubes and mince the garlic, heat a heavy skillet. Add the pancetta and fry until the fat starts to bleed off then add the garlic and mushrooms, mix thoroughly, turn the heat right down and cover - cook for about five minutes.

Beat the eggs with some salt and black pepper.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and put back in the hot saucepan immediately. Add the bacom and mushroom sauce and mix thoroughly. Then add the egg and stir with a wooden spoon making sure the egg coats the spaghetti.

Serve immediately into very warm (only just hand hot) dishes and eat.

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