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I'm a London-based food writer, stylist and author. Click here to see more about me and my work

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Paglia e Fieno

What is it about autumn/winter that makes you want to eat fattening, hearty food? I was lusting after some decadent pasta today and remembered a particularly evil rich one my brother Chris used to make. Paglia e fieno translates to straw and hay, referring to the spinach and egg pasta that’s used to make it. Chris begged the recipe off an Italian restaurant in Wisconsin which consisted of copious amounts of butter, cream and a strange cheese called fontinella. Since I’ve lived in Britain for the last 19 years, I have never been able to find it. Not far off the taste of asiago, it’s a semi-hard cheese that’s pungent and wonderfully melt-y. On many previous trips to Italy I kept inquiring about it, only to meet confounded faces. Reason being that the Italian-Americans invented it about 50 years ago (its actually made in Wisconsin, the cheese capital of the US). So I decided to make my own version minus the butter and fontinella. Using olive oil to saute the mushrooms and garlic and parmesan in place of the cheese, it was still pretty tantalising. My usual disciplined avoidance of cream and cheese has evaporated and my thighs and ass are going to have a little more padding. Thank god they keep putting lycra into blue jeans.

Paglia e Fieno
10 minutes preparation
15 minutes cooking
serves 4

3 large cloves garlic finely chopped
500g/1 lb chestnut or white mushrooms sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices proscuitto chopped
250ml/1 cup white wine
300ml/1 1/4 cup double or whipping cream
400g fresh spinach and white pasta linguine
60g/3/4 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to boil with a handful of salt. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and mushrooms and a large pinch of salt. Saute for 5 minutes on high heat, stirring often. Add the proscuitto and cook another couple of minutes. Pour in the white wine and then let reduce by half, about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the cream and let reduce a little, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add half the cheese and all of the parsley. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 4-5 minutes. If using hard pasta then it will take 8-9 minutes. Drain, saving a bit of the water, and add the pasta to the pan with the cream and mix together. If it needs a bit more liquid, add a bit of the reserved cooking water. Dish it up and sprinkle the remaining cheese over.

The mushrooms are sauteed with the garlic on high heat.

After a couple minutes the proscuitto is added.

White wine is added and reduced by half.

The cream is tipped in and reduced a bit further.

The fresh noodles only take about 4 minutes to cook al dente.

The glorious finished pasta!


  1. catty says:

    LOVING the new look of the blog!! (ok and the pasta doesn’t look so bad either) – congrats on the unveiling and may it bring lots of success and foodage!

  2. mealsinheels says:

    Thank’s that means a lot. Kang is responsible for the new look, I was very lucky to get his help.

  3. Peter says:

    Great recipe, delicious pasta.
    Simple, unambiguous instructions that even I can follow!

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