This quick and easy Italian dish makes a delicious lunch or starter, or you can increase the quantity of each ingredient to make a filling dinner time main course. I picked up the basic recipe during my time living in Rome, and I’ve refined it over the years to make it quicker to prepare and even more delicious.

Vegetarians can leave out the bacon, maybe adding half of the vegetable stock cube for flavour. Meat lovers can make the dish even more substantial by adding leftover sausage, sliced into coin-sized chunks.

You can also place the cooked ingredients into an oven-proof dish, cover generously with Parmasean and Mozzarella then cook in the oven until the cheese has melted and started to brown. Perfect for a cold British summer’s day!

Serves 2 people and, once practiced, a maximum of 20 minutes to prepare and cook (less to eat!).


I make this dish from memory and, to be honest, it’s a case of adding quantities of ingredients as you wish, depending on how many diners your cooking for and how hungry you all are. I’ve given some rough quantities here, but experiment with what works for you.

  • Penne (tubes) or Farfalle (butterflies) pasta (also works with Spaghetti if you prefer) – a handful per person is enough for lunch or a starter
  • About 6 chestnut mushrooms (rinsed and dried to remove any compost, then sliced)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped or crushed
  • 1 small onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • A generous dash of olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • Pancetta Cubes or, if you don’t have any, one slice of bacon (any cut though streaky is ideal as the fat will break down in the pan and enhance the flavour)
  • A generous pinch of each of oregano, basil, and thyme (dried is fine, fresh even better)
  • Splash of Henderson’s relish or Worcestershire sauce
  • Glug of white wine or vermouth
  • A handful of Parmesan Cheese (grated)
  • Salt & Pepper to season
  • Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • Vegetable stock cube (optional if you don’t use bacon for a vegetarian alternative)


Boil some water in a medium-sized pan, adding a pinch of salt.

Add about one small handful of penne pasta for each person.

Bring the pan back to the boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.

Use the pasta cooking time to cut your mushrooms, onions, and other ingredients.

In a frying pan, gently fry the onion in olive oil and butter for about 5 minutes until they are soft.

Now add the pancetta or bacon, which should be cut into small cubes, and fry gently for a further two minutes.

Once the bacon starts to brown, add the mushrooms.  If the butter and oil have evaporated at this point, add a little more butter. 


Add a generous splash of Henderson’s relish (or Worcestershire sauce).

Fry for about three to five minutes until the mushrooms are soft and golden.

Add the chopped garlic and stir for a few seconds being careful not to burn the garlic as it will spoil the flavour.

Turn up the heat slightly, then pour in the wine (or vermouth) and de-glaze the pan (stir with a spatula, scraping the juices from the bottom of the pan and mixing with the mushrooms, onions, and bacon). 

Once the wine has all evaporated, add the basil, oregano, and thyme and, if you want a bit of a kick a pinch of chili powder or cayenne pepper. Turn the heat down low and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the Parmesan cheese and mix it together.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, on a low heat add the cream or Creme-Fraiche and keep stirring so the cream doesn’t separate. 

If you don’t have enough sauce, carefully add a splash of boiled water (ideally save some of the pasta water for this purpose) a tiny bit at a time, stirring as you go.

Having drained the pasta, pour it into the frying pan (or if there isn’t enough room in the frying pan, pour your sauce into the pasta, either way, works) and mix the sauce and pasta together.

Serve in bowls with a sprig of fresh basil to garnish.

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After travelling internationally on business for multiple decades, I have decided to take early retirement. I am now fulfilling two dreams. To travel more slowly and to write my own thriller novels.