tagliatelle gratin with pancetta

This is a simple adaptation of the superlative baked tagliolini with parmesan and prosciutto they serve at Harry's Bar. While this version is somewhat less elaborate, it is no less buttery or decadent for it.

serves 4-6

for the béchamel
40g butter
20g plain flour
330ml milk

for the pasta
350g dried tagliatelle
60g butter
100g cubed pancetta
90g grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 200C (220C non-fan). Fill a large saucepan with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to the boil. While the water heats make the sauce: spoon the butter into a small saucepan set over a very low heat, stirring until melted. The moment it becomes liquid, take the pan off the heat and add the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms, then add a splash of the milk and keep stirring until it becomes a thick cream. Put the pan back on the heat and stir constantly as you slowly pour in the rest of the milk. Keep stirring until the sauce begins to thicken - you want it to be the texture of a soft custard — then take it off the heat and set to one side.

When the water is boiling, add the tagliatelle and cook for 5-6 minutes, until al dente. Spoon a third of the butter into a large frying pan set over a medium heat. As the butter begins to melt, add the pancetta and fry until cooked through. When the pasta is ready, drain and add it to the frying pan. Add another third of the butter and sprinkle with half the parmesan, then toss together until the pasta is well coated in cheese and crisp pieces of bacon run through it.

Spoon the pasta into an ovenproof casserole dish (about 1.5-litre capacity) and spread it out evenly. Pour the béchamel over the pasta and sprinkle with what is left of the cheese, then cut the remaining butter into small pieces and scatter over the top. Place the dish at the top of the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling on top. Serve immediately.