Porcini,. cepe, penny bun, steinpilz, Herrenpilz,
prawdziwek…..These are only a few of the many names throughout the world for boletus edulis (“edible mushroom”). I don’t know why we don’t have a name for it. Porcini seems to be our name of choice. Perhaps it’s the influence of the large migrant Italian population.
Eaten and prized for centuries, porcini are among a group of wild mushrooms that have yet to be cultivated commercially. And here comes the detour but I need to talk about the too-often-found menu description: “wild mushrooms.” Most often these are cultivated mushrooms—a portabella, though good, is not a wild mushroom. I know that almost everything we eat was at one time a “wild” food until we learned to grow it but unless it was foraged, it’s not a wild mushroom. It doesn’t mean they’re not good. It only means that it isn’t “wild”.
Enough of the lecturing, please…
Porcini appeared at our local farmer’s market so a splurge was in order. Porcini are used in all manner of ways. Since I recently wrote about asparagus risotto, I thought of a dish of pasta for the porcini instead. (“Mmmmm...porcini risotto…”). I have been making fresh pasta lately, but you don’t have too, of course. Any pasta you choose will work. If you want to make fresh pasta and need a recipe, one follows. It makes 9 ounces of dough, which when cooked, makes a sizable portion for two. Oddly, it works out just right for three people. Since our youngest daughter is home, it will be enough for the three of us. But she’ll get vegetables. She’s not a mushroom person. And since this is a splurge, I’m using some light cream to finish the sauce.
If you want to bolster the mushroom flavor, you can make a little broth using a few dried porcini mushrooms. Simmer the mushrooms in one cup of water. Season the water with ¼ teaspoon light soy sauce. Cook until reduced by half. Slice the hydrated porcini and add them to the pan with the fresh porcini. Add the mushroom broth when adding the cream.
4 or 5 ounces Porcini mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine
¼ to 1/3 cup light cream
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
Olive oil, for cooking
1. Place a pot of lightly salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. (If using fresh pasta, cook the pasta for 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Clean the porcini with a paper towel. Slice off the bottom of the stems. Slice the mushrooms into pieces. Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the porcini. If the pan gets dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the thyme to the mushrooms, season with salt and black pepper and continue cooking until the mushrooms soften, about 5 or 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the sliced mushrooms. Pour the white wine into the pan; cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the cream and the Parmesan cheese; reduce the sauce slightly. If the pasta isn’t ready, remove the pan from the heat. (If the sauce gets too thick, you can thin it by using some of the pasta water).
3. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to pan. Toss the pasta with the mushrooms and sauce. Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve.
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment. mix the flour and salt together. On low speed, add the eggs and mix until a ball of dough is formed. Remove the dough from the mixer. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it comes together and is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling and cutting the pasta. (This can also be made in a food processor with the plastic blade or by hand).
*”You eat the choice boletus:” Martial, 1st Century A.D.