What’s cooking today: Creamy mushroom and ham pasta

What’s cooking today: Creamy mushroom and ham pasta
Tony Jackman’s creamy mushroom and ham pasta. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Here’s an easy weeknight supper for the family, made special by the use of white wine and cream, to add lovely depth of flavour to the pasta sauce. And, note, no thickening agents required.

Pasta sauces thickened with cornflour or, worse, plain flour, have me running for the hills screaming “Why! Why Why!?” There’s just no need for it, when simple reduction gives a pasta sauce all the depth and “hold” it needs.

Giving a pasta sauce such as this one the body it needs begins with cooking down ingredients such as onions and mushrooms with some oil, adding wine and reducing that, and finally adding cream, which will thicken as it reduces (although I rarely use cream in a pasta sauce, this is very much an exception). 

For extra lusciousness and body, a ladleful of pasta water works a bit of magic in the end, lending a certain “creaminess” to a pasta sauce. And even if you don’t use actual cream, that pasta water will do the trick without flour or cornflour having to intrude and ruin a good sauce.

(Serves 2)


1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A glug of olive oil

A glass of dry white wine

250 g button mushrooms, sliced

250 g decent quality ham, cut into small squares

250 ml cream

A ladleful of pasta water

Maldon sea salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Dried Italian herbs

Grana Padano, grated, to serve


Sauté the onion with the garlic in olive oil on a low heat until softened.

Add the wine and cook it down by half, then add the sliced mushrooms and thyme and cook, stirring now and then, until the mushrooms have released their juices and they have cooked away by half.

Season with salt and pepper, and pour in the cream. Let it simmer until the cream turns the sauce into a thing of beauty and lustre.

Add the ham and cook, gently, for a minute or two.

Cook the pasta until it’s al dente and drain in a colander, reserving a ladleful of the pasta water.

Pour the pasta from the colander back into the pasta pot, along with the reserved pasta water. Add the sauce and toss with a pasta spoon or two wooden spoons, until all the pasta is coated.

Grate Grana Padano over, or another hard cheese. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed in a bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rinda Wizz says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you – for your comments about NOT adding the ubiquitous “cornflour or, worse, plain flour” to pasta sauces…….

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options