Nothing says cozy like a bowl full of pasta. And if that pasta happens to be homemade… all the better! And if it’s Homemade Orechiette with Wild Mushrooms & Pancetta then things about to get real cozy, real fast. We have been working on some recipes to share with family over the holidays and this one is at the top of the list. It’s impressive, making your family think you’ve slaved for days and days (you won’t!), as well as hearty and stick-to-your-ribs delicious. Serve with some crusty bread and red wine and your Holiday hosting duties are done like dinner.
It’s taken me a very long time to work up the courage to attempt homemade pasta. Like bread and pastries, pasta has daunted me for years, scaring me into believing it was a task saved only for Nonnas and professional chefs. Well guess what, I am neither (though being a Nonna seems like a sweet gig) and somehow, someway I managed to mix, knead, cut, shape and cook a batch of delicious, toothsome, pillowy orecchiette in little more than 1.5hours. And now I feel like a real butthead for not having tried earlier.
Since this was obviously a milestone in my life, I didn’t want to mess things up by not having some primo ingredients to toss into those beautiful little ears of pasta. I started with some Mastro Pancetta, because what isn’t better with crispy, savory rolled pork belly (answer: nada), and finished with some browned and crispy wild mushrooms and sage, with a hit of acid from lemon juice to cut the richness, kick and a splash of cream to pull everyone together in a cozy little sauce.
If you’re really short for time, feel free to buy some pasta (or gnocchi would be fantastic in this dish, too) but if you do have time, and can muster a little faith in yourself as I did, I urge you to give the homemade pasta the ol’college try. First, I am confident you’ll be shocked at how easy it is. Second, you’ll feel so good about yourself you’ll float through the rest of the day. Third, you’ll want to make fresh pasta every day of the week.
If you’re having trouble shaping the pasta, I found this video from TasteMade really helpful. There are a few ways you could shape your dough, but I love orecchiette and it seemed most straightforward (and it was!).
- FOR THE PASTA
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 cups Tipo00 Flour (or 4 cups AP flour)
- 5 eggs
- FOR THE MAIN COURSE
- ¾ cup Mastro Pancetta, 1" dice
- 5-6 whole fresh sage leaves
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 cups wild mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, optional
- zest from ½ lemon
- juice from ½ lemon
- ¼ cup half and half cream or whole milk
- salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- FOR THE PASTA
- Whisk the flours together and dump onto a large clean countertop.
- Form a well in the center of the flour and crack the eggs in.
- Whisk the eggs together gently so the yolks and white are incorporated.
- Carefully start pulling the flour into the eggs, swirling and folding.
- Once a ball has started to form, knead it gently until smooth and set aside.
- Clean any scraps off the counter and discard.
- Continue to knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
- Wrap in plastic and rest 30 minutes.
- Pat the ball of dough into a rectangle and cut into 4 even pieces, lengthwise.
- Cut those 4 pieces into 4 even strips, and the strips into 6-8 small pieces (dough chunks for the orecchiette should be about 1" but don't worry if they are bigger or smaller).
- With a butter knife, smoosh each piece of dough and pull it toward you as it curls around the blade. You'll have a little shell-shaped pasta piece (which you could totally cook just as-is).
- Uncoil the piece of pasta gently and use your finger to push a small dent in the center of the dough from the outside of the pasta to the inside. If you're feeling a bit confused, see link to video above.
- Place your shaped orecchiette on a lightly floured baking tray and cover with a clean dish towel until ready to cook. If you want to dry these out, leave them on the tray, covered, overnight.
- When you're ready to cook, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until it's cooked to your liking. Before straining, scoop out at least a ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Toss strained pasta with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking while you finish the rest of the ingredients.
- FOR THE MAIN COURSE
- Cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the fat has rendered and it's brown and crisped. Remove to a towel lined tray for the excess fat to drain.
- In the same pan: turn the heat down to medium and add the sage leaves, letting them fry for a minute or two until they are crispy. Set aside with the pancetta.
- Add the butter and mushrooms to the same pan and spread them out in one layer. Let them cook, untouched, for 4-5 minutes or until they are golden brown on one side.
- Give them a stir and repeat. They should be starting to crisp up nicely but give them more time if they are still floppy and watery. Mushrooms *need* time to cook properly so don't rush this step.
- Add in the garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon zest and cook for 1 minute.
- Add back the pancetta and crumble in the fried sage.
- Pour in the cooked pasta, cream, lemon juice, Parmesan and a few tbsp of the starchy pasta water. Fold everything together and let it cook for a few minutes so the pasta can absorb some of that rich and delicious sauce.
- Taste for salt and add more, if needed.
- Serve with fresh ground pepper and extra cheese.
Disclaimer: I am part of the #MASTROYOURHOLIDAY Campaign sponsored by Mastro and San Daniele and receive compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. Regardless, I only work with brands I use personally and enjoy.