I've been obsessed lately with a recipe in Biba Caggiano's "Italy al Dente" for Spinach Penne with Endive, Pancetta, and Cream. The problem is, I could never get her recipe to come out quite the way I think it was intended to, despite numerous attempts. Well, when the weather gods decided to dump more than a foot of snow on DC this weekend, I decided to use the occasion both to overhaul the recipe and clean out the fridge. —Chris Hagan
dried porcini mushrooms
bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved and caps sliced thinly
fresh thyme, minced
garlic clove, minced
Belgian endive, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4-1/2-inch thin crosswise
dry white wine
parmesean-mushroom broth (from porcini soaking liquid)
Bring 1 1/4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Set the dried porcinis in a bowl and pour the water over; cover and allow to steep for about half an hour. Meanwhile, stem the shiitakes. Slice the caps thinly and roughly chop the stems. Set the stems and the parmesean heel in the saucepan. When the porcinis are rehydrated, set a strainer over the saucepan, line with a paper towel, and strain the soaking liquid into the saucepan. Squeeze the mushrooms in the towel to extract as much liquid as possible. Rinse and dry the mushrooms and roughly chop. Allow the mushroom-parmesean liquid to simmer, covered, while you do the rest of your prep.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until golden and starting to crisp. Add the porcinis, the sliced shiitakes, the thyme, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss. Allow the mushrooms to give up their liquid and get some color, stirring or tossing to avoid burning anything. Add the garlic, stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add the endive, again tossing to coat. Cook until the endive starts to wilt.
Add the worcestershire sauce, give a quick stir, then add the white wine. Cook until almost all evaporated, then strain the mushroom-parmesean broth into the skillet. Stir in the cream, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer while the pasta cooks. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Drain and add to the skillet. Toss to combine. Serve with grated parmesean.