I recently bought Sharon Boorstin‘s culinary memoir Let Us Eat Cake, a lively autobiography that shows the role played by food in building friendships among women over the years. It’s quite interesting, really amusing with some laugh-out-loud moments, and the recipes are so appealing, even the most reluctant will be bounding off to the kitchen to do some cooking.
One particular recipe was for pappardelle pasta in a porcini mushroom sauce. This savory dish consisted of freshly-made pappardelle tossed in a hearty sauce made with a fresh, large porcini found in the Italian woods. Sharon Boorstin and a friend started debating on how best to cook the gigantic mushroom: to cook it in butter or olive oil? Bacon or no bacon? Red wine or white? In the end, the finished dish surpassed all the rest of the things they offered at their Italian feast.
When I decided to cook this last Saturday, I planned to make it with farfalle (bow-tie / butterfly) pasta and bacon. Alas, it turned out that the farfalle at home had been used for a pasta soup for a church luncheon and my mother turned the last of Saturday breakfast’s bacon into a Saturday afternoon sandwich. Plus, when I went to one of the local delis, the price of a single porcini mushroom was enough to make my hair white. Well, in a pinch (like this one), there’s always spaghetti and shiitake mushies to use; oh, well…
This is one of those recipes that is so darned easy that it’s almost ridiculous. In the event that you find yourself with some serious hunger pangs, you can whip this dish up in less than half an hour – and it takes even less time if you already have cooked pasta stored in your fridge.
This recipe for buttered pasta with mushrooms differs from most as it is made without cream or bacon. Indeed, the sauteed mushrooms get an additional savory fillip from a splash of red wine and a good dash of mixed herbs. A generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese finishes it just fine.
Pasta con Funghi
- 1 medium pack spaghetti, prepared according to package instructions
- 500 grams fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (use both caps and stems)
- 1 medium can button mushrooms; drained and liquid reserved for another recipe
- 1 medium red onion, chopped finely
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/3 cup salted butter
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley and basil or 1 tablespoon commercial Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Once cooked, save two tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and cook till soft. Add the garlic and cook till the garlic has browned slightly. Add the shiitake slices; don’t panic if the mushrooms absorb the butter. When the shiitake slices are soft, add the button mushrooms, the wine, and the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half, then add the herbs. Stir for about five seconds, then turn off the heat. Toss in the cooked pasta at once along with the grated Parmesan. Sprinkle on some ground black pepper. Serve immediately.