I’ve come around on Valentine’s Day. February is short on festive feeling; why not take the opportunity to make a special occasion out of what would otherwise be another grey Wednesday? No matter whether you’re coupled-up, seeing friends or going solo – this year, set aside time to celebrate. Just don’t do it at a restaurant.
Having dinner out on Valentine’s Day is like going out on New Year’s Eve: Overcrowded, overpriced and never as good as you hope. Instead, swerve the hassle with a vibey meal at home. Turn off the big light, put on a jazz album (I’ve got Yussef Dayes’ Black Classical Music on repeat) and make this restaurant-worthy truffle cheese pasta.
This is my favourite kind of festive dish: Wildly fancy on paper, but incredibly easy to make. With just five ingredients (seven if you count salt and pepper) and no complicated chopping, it can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes. And while truffle might not exactly sound accessible, you can pick up a small jar of truffle slices (Sous Chef has one for £12) rather than a whole truffle, or opt for even more affordable truffle oil.
The other ingredient to choose with care is your cheese. A classic option is robiola rocchetta, a triple-cream cheese from Piedmont, with a delicate bloomy rind and an unbeatable richness - I found mine at a favourite Italian deli (Da Mario in Highbury), though you can also order it online. Alternatively, go with triple-cream alternatives like La Tur, Brillat-Savarin or Délice de Bourgogne. (Steer clear of brie or camembert, which would bring too much cabbagey funk to the table.)
Also hailing from northern Italy is the perfect companion to this dish: Camillo Donati’s Ribelle Rosato. Made with the Barbera grape (a classic pairing for truffle), it pours a dusky rose and offers brooding elegance, its cherry top notes balanced out by base notes of herbs and earth. With its jubilant froth, it’s the kind of wine that makes a celebration of any day it’s opened. Why not February 14th
Truffle Cheese Pasta
Adapted from Food and Wine
85g salted butter
500g dried fettuccine, pici, pappardelle or other long pasta
Fine sea salt
300g robiola rocchetta (or another triple-cream cheese), sliced into small cubes
50g jarred sliced truffle (or use fresh truffle or 1-2 tablespoons truffle oil)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano, to garnish
1. First, brown your butter. Place a medium frying pan over medium-low heat and add the butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the butter has melted, turned a deep golden-brown colour, and smells toasty and nutty (keep a close eye on it, as it can burn quickly). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
2. Add the pasta to a saucepan of boiling, generously salted water. Cook according to package instructions until just al dente. Drain, reserving around 400ml of the pasta water.
3. Transfer the pasta to the pan you used to melt the butter and place over low heat. Add both the brown butter and around 200ml of your reserved pasta water. Gently mix, using tongs, until the sauce looks smooth and emulsified; add more pasta water if necessary.
4. Next, add the robiola rocchetta and mix through gently, until it’s completely melted and incorporated (again, you can add more pasta water to help it emulsify). Add the jarred sliced truffles, if using, or 1-2 tablespoons truffle oil (if you’re using fresh truffle, add later) and mix through. Season generously with black pepper and any additional salt, if needed.
5. Divide between plates and garnish generously with Parmigiano Reggiano. If using fresh truffle, top with slices. Serve immediately.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.