River Café Porcini and tomato pappardelle

This is a recipe that we’ve been making on and off for years, but it’s really come into its own now that we’ve been on the hunt for fantastic vegetarian dishes. It’s from the original dark blue ‘The River Café Cook Book’ but we’ve adapted it.

The biggest change we’ve made is to use pappardelle instead of conchiglie – for us the latter (big pasta shells) are a bit too heavy and difficult to stop sticking together as they cook in the pan. However, conchiglie shells do have the benefit of catching all the lovely sauce within, so it really is your decision as to which to use.


  • 75g dried porcini mushrooms 
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 75ml Marsala (our own addition!)
  • 1 tbsps flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 dried chilli, crumbled (or ½ tsp chilli flakes)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 120ml double cream
  • 120g Parmesan, grated
  • 250g parpadelle or conchiglie
  • S&P
  • Extra virgin olive oil & white truffle oil


  • Cuisine: Vegetarian
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes plus 20 minutes soaking time
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1.5 hours
  • Serves: 4 


Soak the dried porcini in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Drain the porcini through a fine sieve, keeping the soaking water, which must then be re-passed through a fine muslin to get rid of any grit. Rinse the porcini to remove any grit and pat dry.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic gently for a few minutes with the thyme leaves, most of the parsley and the chilli. Add the porcini and cook for a few minutes. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the Marsala. Once the Marsala has almost cooked away, turn the heat down again and begin adding the porcini water a little at a time. Continue adding the liquid for 15-20 minutes until the porcini are tender. Don’t worry if you don’t use up all of the porcini soaking water.

Add the lemon juice, then the tomatoes and the sugar. Simmer together for approximately 30 minutes until the tomatoes have thickened and become a sauce. Add the cream and reduce a little by boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in half of the Parmesan and a good drizzle of truffle oil. 

Cook the pasta according to the instructions and drain. If you are using pappardelle, stir a little extra virgin olive oil through the pasta and serve in individual bowls with the sauce spooned over and a generous sprinkling of parmesan, plus the parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.

If you are using conchiglie, once cooked, add the pasta to the sauce along with most of the remaining Parmesan and stir well. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parsley and Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


This certainly feels like a dinner party / special occasion dish and for that you need a really lovely bottle of wine. We’d go red because of the earthy flavours in the recipe, but you also need something with decent acidity to cut through the richness of the cream and Parmesan, and to balance the tangy tomatoes and lemon in the sauce. Sticking to the Italian roots of the dish, we’d opt for a medium bodied wine such as a decent Chianti or another good Tuscan red.

  • Morrisons The Best Chianti Classico 2015 £8.25 (Great Value!)
  • Chianti Classico Riserva Riecine 2015 £25.00 The Wine Society