Forkful's speedy suppers: Jerusalem artichoke pasta bake
Jerusalem artichokes are known by a few different names. In the USA, they're known as sunchokes, in reference to their family connection to the sunflower. Colloquially, among the initiated, they're also known as (and sensitive readers should turn away now) fartichokes.
Something about these little tubers makes almost everyone who consumes them dole out a few parps, of the comically loud but harmless variety, within an hour or two of eating them. I was at a dinner party with strangers not so long ago where Jerusalem artichokes were on the menu. A pretty risky move by the host, I thought.
But, listen, I'm not trying to put you off making this pasta bake, which is one of my absolute all-time favourite dishes to make at home. I just feel that you should be forewarned to only make it for your nearest and dearest.
This pasta bake makes use of a brilliant Jamie Oliver method for mac 'n' cheese breadcrumbs, which I picked up a few years back. It's so simple but it's a really diverse breadcrumb topping that I also apply to sausage stews.
Jerusalem artichokes are in season until March, and can usually be found at a good farmers' market or specialty food shop. They look like a less fibrous, sometimes purple-tinted ginger root.
Once sliced, their flesh will go brown, like an apple. To avoid discolouration, place the slices in a bowl of cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Jerusalem artichoke pasta bake
Serves 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
600g of Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed but not peeled
300g of pasta, penne or rigatoni
200ml of crème fraîche
150g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 slices of streaky bacon, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
For the breadcrumb topping
2 slices of stale-ish bread
4 slices of streaky bacon, unchopped
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6. Put four slices of streaky bacon for the breadcrumb topping in an ovenproof dish/roasting tin, big enough to fit the entire bake. Put this into the oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the bacon crisps up.
2. In the meantime, get a bowl of cold water and squeeze some lemon juice into it. Chop your scrubbed but not chopped Jerusalem artichokes into 1/2 cm slices and put them into the lemon water to keep them from discolouring.
3. Take the bacon out of the oven dish and put aside. In the same roasting dish/tin - don't wash away that bacon flavour - throw in your Jerusalem artichokes and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them for 25- 30 minutes, tossing every once in a while.
4. Boil your pasta and drain into another bowl, saving the pasta water and putting it aside.
5. In the last 15 minutes of cooking the artichokes, add your chopped bacon and mix everything well. In the last 5 minutes, add the chopped garlic, combining well.
6. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blitz your bread slices, rosemary leaves and the four original streaky bacon bits to make the breadcrumb topping. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the breadcrumbs and mix well.
7. Once the artichokes, bacon and garlic are cooked, take the dish/tin out of the oven and put it over a low heat on the hob. Now add your cooked pasta. Then your crème fraîche and Parmesan cheese. Finally add about 200ml of your reserved pasta water. Mix everything really well so it's all combined and creamy. Add more of your pasta water if you think it needs to be creamier.
8. Now sprinkle your breadcrumbs all over the top. Pop into the oven and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until it's gorgeously golden and bubbling.
This week's storecupboard essential:
Stale bread: You can't make decent breadcrumbs with fresh bread. Instead of throwing away the last of your loaf, pop it in a freezer bag until you have a collection of stored stale bread to whiz into breadcrumbs, once defrosted.
Photo: Mark Duggan