Another Italian dish, more pasta, more cream. I fear I am repeating myself but what makes this one noteworthy is the addition of a thing called speck.
I first came across speck while eating out in my local Italian restaurant where it showed up in a couple of the dishes on their menu. I’m never afraid to ask what is what when I am eating out and nor should you be. If you don’t know what something on the menu is, just ask.
It is an Italian cured ham. Kind of like Parma ham but lightly smoked. I won’t go into a dreary lecture about cured meat right now but suffice to say speck beats Parma any day of the week as far as I am concerned. It can be an elusive thing to find, your average supermarket will not have speck on the shelves though they will always have Parma. If you must have speck now then you will probably pay a premium in a specialist food shop.
However, those wonderful, cheap German supermarkets will occasionally have big lumps of speck as part of their weekly special offers. I picked up a piece a little over half a kilo in weight for a fiver and I will get several meals out of it. Bargain!
I could eat a half a kilo of the stuff just as it is, thinly sliced with a few olives or whatever, but it is also great to cook with so let’s crack on.
Quantities here will feed four but scale it up or down as you see fit.
Tagliatelle with Speck and Mushrooms
- 500 grams tagliatelle or any pasta you like
- 100 g speck (cubed for our purposes here)
- 300 g Mushrooms, chestnut would be nice but regular are fine. By all means use porcini if you are feeling posh or want to impress.
- 1 large shallot or half an onion finely chopped
- 1 or two minced garlic cloves
- 200 mls cream or creme fraiche
- A sprig’s worth of fresh thyme leaves or a pinch of the dried stuff
- Some olive oil for frying
- A tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese or similar
- Salt and Pepper
Boil up a large pot of salted water and get your pasta on according to packet instructions. (Some do take a lot longer or shorter to cook than others depending on the type or even brand of pasta).
In a good sized pan, fry the mushrooms and speck until both have browned a little. Throw in your chopped onion, garlic and the thyme. Fry for a few minutes to soften the onion and then add the cream. Simmer and stir for another minute or two until it starts to thicken slightly, this will not take long! Add the Parmesan and season to your taste with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and stir through until it is all coated.
Serve and enjoy.
You could use readily available pancetta for this, or even plain old bacon but then it’s just another creamy bacon pasta thing. The speck is what makes it special.
Thinly sliced speck mixed in with scrambled eggs brings a simple breakfast dish to another level worthy of a posh hotel.