Porcini Mushroom and Pancetta Baked Pasta

There is something extremely comforting and homely about the smell of this dish as you take it from the oven.  The deep earthy aroma of the mushrooms and the salty tang of the pancetta and parmesan makes me salivate.   All you you want to do is to curl up on a sofa and dive into a big bowl of this.   It doesn’t matter if all those fallen leaves are dancing around in the wind outside because this dish will make you feel cosy.  The silky, intense mushroom and bechamel coated pasta warms you and all is alright with the world.   True comfort food.

The porcini mushrooms in this recipe are dried ones.  They are soaked in the milk that forms the base of the sauce so getting maximum flavour.  They are then joined by other mushrooms – chestnut in this case – before thinly sliced strips of pancetta are stirred in.  If you are vegetarian you can, of course, leave the pancetta out – it still tastes great!   The bechamel itself is surprisingly easy to make and best done whilst drinking a glass of wine listening to some music.  My personal choice as I made this was the Year of Wonder: October.  It is compiled by Clemency Burton-Hill, and gives a new piece of classical music for every day of the year. Do download it

Ingredients (serves two very greedy people)

  • 500ml milk
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms (or button or field)
  • 60g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • large clove of garlic, finely chopped/crushed
  • scattering of thyme leaves (4 sprigs picked)
  • 20g plain flour
  • 100g dried penne pasta (you could use pappardelle)
  • 60g sliced pancetta cut into 5 cm lengths
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated


  1. Warm the milk gently in a pan, remove from heat and add the dried porcini mushrooms.   Leave to soak for 10 mins so the flavour infuses.
  2. Slice the chestnut mushrooms and fry gently with the garlic and thyme leaves in 20g of the butter, olive oil and seasoning for 5 mins till softened and put to one side
  3. Strain the porcini mushrooms over a bowl, pushing hard against the sieve to get maximum flavour into the milk. Chop the porcini and add to the chestnut mushrooms ready to be added to sauce later.
  4. Rinse the same milk pan and melt the remaining 40g of butter over a gentle heat, then add the flour and stir for  a couple of minutes to cook out.
  5. Add the infused milk in one go and whisk until there are no lumps
  6. Continue cooking the sauce for about 10 mins until it thickens. Just stir every now and again
  7. Meanwhile put the pasta in boiling, salted water and cook until just al dente and drain
  8. Now its just a matter of combining everything.  Season the sauce with lots of pepper but only a little salt as the pancetta and parmesan are already salty.  Add the mushrooms (porcini and chestnut), pancetta and pasta to the sauce and combine.  Put into baking/serving dish and grate over parmesan.
  9. Bake at 180c for 30-40 mins until golden and bubbling


I like to serve this with a raw, baby spinach salad dressed with a little vinegrette

You can of course, assemble the pasta dish the day before and keep in fridge ready for baking the next day   It also freezes well



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