This post marks the start of a series of experiments that can be credited to none other than Mimi Thorisson of Manger. A few days ago I came across her most recent post in which she chronicles foraging for porcinis to make the most beautiful homemade ravioli I’ve ever seen, and while initially I wanted to make the recipe she posted, I realized there were some issues:
- The only porcinis I can find are dried. (Not a dealbreaker, but they aren’t really in the spirit of the recipe.)
- The recipe also calls for pork cheeks. Pork cheeks, sadly, are not readily available near us, at least in a way that would make them easy to transport home.
I realized quickly, though, that there was a lot of room for improvisation here, namely because while fresh pork cheeks aren’t easy to come by, guanciale usually is in Fairway’s deli case. Jotting some notes in my notebook I initially had the idea of just making our own ravioli with this modified mixture, but the thought occurred to me on Sunday that perhaps it might be worth trying this out with pasta to make sure it was actually, you know, tasty.
This first iteration came out relatively well—it’s not a saucy pasta, but more in the spirit of a pasta alla gricia in which it’s about the components rather than one coherent sauce. It felt appropriately autumnal with the sage and the rosemary but despite the fact that you basically cook everything in pork fat, it still felt somewhat light.
In order to make this into something that can be stuffed into ravioli we’ll have to chop the mushrooms down even further, but it’s exciting to at least have a place to start from a flavor perspective.
Fedelini with Cremini Mushrooms, Guanciale, Herbs and Red Wine
- 1 lb cremini mushrooms, diced
- ½ lb guanciale, cut into lardons
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 2-3 sprigs sage leaves, chopped
- 3 sprigs rosemary, chopped
- ½ cup dry red wine (preferably Italian)
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb fedelini or other long pasta
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
Add guanciale to a cold pan and bring to low heat to rend out the fat. As this cooks, start to bring a large pot of water to boil. When the guanciale has rendered sufficient fat (between 8-10 minutes), raise the heat to medium and start adding mushrooms in batches: for each batch, push the guanciale (and any cooked mushrooms in subsequent batches) out to the edge of the pan and add the mushrooms, lightly seasoning with salt. Cook until reduced in size by about a half, and then push them out and continue to add more mushrooms. When all mushrooms have been cooked push them to the edge of the pan and add the shallot and garlic, and cook until fragrant; then add the herbs.
Hopefully by now your water is at a boil, so add salt and start cooking the fedelini. Fedelini specifically only needs about four minutes to cook so at this point add the red wine to the pan in splashes to make sure it has some time to evaporate. Meanwhile, just as you start to hit the 4-minute mark with the fedelini, start adding it directly to the pan and ladle in a bit of the cooking water to help it finish cooking in the sauce. Toss well for a minute or two, and then finally serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.