When English food writer and star cooking show host Nigella Lawson posted her recipe for ‘Spaghetti with Marmite’ on her website and social media, there was an outbreak of varying responses that were hugely consistent with Marmite’s famous slogan “you either love it, or hate it”. Some people – myself included – thought the comforting and simple pasta dish was a true spark of genius and had to keep themselves from having it every day after trying it for the first time, while others recoiled in horror at the mere thought of Marmite spaghetti and claimed “it’s worse than pineapple on pizza”. Indeed, people’s feelings towards Marmite – an intensely salty, sticky, brown condiment made from yeast extract – are as fierce as people’s feelings towards pineapple on pizza: those who love it really love it, while those who hate it really despise it with an almost-hostile, fiery passion.
And sure, perhaps Marmite is an acquired taste (that many never wish to acquire) and this pasta dish is not for everyone, but I absolutely LOVE it, no matter what the Marmite-haters, pineapple-shunners and pasta traditionalists might think of me after this confession (side note: there is no pineapple in this dish).
My version here is, of course, heavily inspired by Nigella Lawson’s version, which was in turn inspired by Italian food writer Anna Del Conte whom had written about a similar dish in her memoir Risotto with Nettles (2009). My slightly adapted version here, has at least twice the amount of Marmite (oh, yeah!) and is topped with crispy fried enoki (enokitake) mushrooms for some crunchy texture and extra level of umami – as if this dish wasn’t already an umami-bomb to begin with.
Tip #1: Want to make this dish even easier to prepare, or can’t find enoki mushrooms? Omit adding mushrooms altogether like in the original recipe, or sauté any type of mushroom of your choice in a little bit of olive oil (minus the cornstarch) before stirring them into the pasta. The mushrooms might not be crispy, but they will still add that delicious, extra level of earthiness.
Spaghetti with Marmite and Crispy Mushrooms
- 400g spaghetti
- 2 teaspoons marmite, or more to taste
- 50g butter
- 100g enoki mushrooms (enokitake)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Grated Parmesan, to serve
- Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of lightly(!) salted water to a boil. Boil the spaghetti according to instructions on the package.
- Meanwhile prepare the enoki mushrooms: Cut the bottoms off of the enoki mushrooms and separate them into tiny bunches. In a small bowl gently dust the enoki mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Gently shake bowl to cover the mushrooms well.
- Fry the enoki mushrooms: In a small frying pan, or saucepan, heat up about 2cm of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Shake excess cornstarch off of the enoki mushrooms and fry them in the hot oil until brown and crispy. Don’t overcrowd the pan too much and work in batches. Remove fried mushrooms from the oil and let the excess oil drain off onto a paper kitchen towel.
- Make the Marmite sauce: When the pasta is almost done cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the Marmite and two tablespoons of the pasta water to the melted butter. Mix thoroughly until the marmite is dissolved and well incorporated.
- Finishing the dish: Drain the cooked pasta and pour the Marmite sauce over the cooked spaghetti. Stir to coat each strand in a thin layer of the sauce. Add freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
- To serve: Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese and crispy fried enoki mushrooms on top.