The Italians can understandably be somewhat protective over their food – they have after all been doing it rather well for over 500 years. I have not veered far from the traditional here, just refined it to our taste, which means it’s fabulous of course.
50g pancetta or smoked, streaky bacon – cut into small cubes or strips. Plus 2 strips separately for serving
40g any soft, creamy blue cheese like St Agur – crumbled
40g Parmesan cheese – finely grated
40g strong cheddar – finely grated
150g chestnut mushrooms (or button)
2 egg yolks
2 cloves garlic – minced
50ml double cream
knob of butter
Maldon salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 nutmeg – freshly grated
1) Put a large pot of salted water on to boil
2) Set a frying pan onto a medium heat, add the butter and fry the mushrooms, adding the minced garlic towards the end of the 5-10 mins
3) In a separate frying pan, fry the bacon/pancetta pieces in a little olive oil. Put the bacon in with the mushrooms but reserve the oil/bacon fat
4) Once boiling, add a glug of olive oil to the water and add the pasta which should take about 6 mins
5) Meanwhile combine most of the parmesan with the other cheeses, the egg yolks and the cream. Grate the nutmeg into this mix and a good pinch of black pepper
6) In the frying pan with the reserved bacon fat, gently re-heat and sizzle the two separate strips of pancetta/bacon
7) When the linguine has cooked, pull the pasta out of the water with tongs and place directly into the frying pan containing the bacon/mushroom mixture. It is perfectly fine, indeed necessary, for some of the pasta water to go in along with the pasta itself.
8) Switch on to a low heat and then gently combine the cheese mix into the mushroom/bacon/pasta pan. It should start to gently simmer as you stir and turn into an incredibly smooth, glossy sauce – it should not curdle or scramble.
9) You will probably need to add more pasta water as the linguine continues to absorb moisture and will tend to go thick and gloopy. Not elegant.
10) Serve into the awaiting warmed bowls, with a nice twist from the pasta tongs – you may even need to add a few more tablespoons of pasta water. Ensure you end up with a fairly thick but still very “saucy” consistency. Garnish with the reserved Parmesan and the crisped bacon.