Mama's Porcini Pasta
There are some staples that simply must be in the well-stocked kitchen.
Mama always had a glass jar of dried porcini mushrooms.Made with this
essential, sauces and stocks have an added richness and depth.
This contributes to a wine-friendly menu, which we are fond of. Here is
an easy sauce for the best pasta you can find. Family note: Mama used
butter and fresh tomatoes; Papa used only olive oil and cooked his
sauce longer. Even this simple recipe has variations!
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound fresh crimini mushrooms
1 pound fresh roma tomatoes
¼ cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Italian (flat leaf) parsley
½ cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
approximately ½ c olive oil
salt and pepper
12 oz. pasta: rigatoni recommended, or choose your shape.
Soak porcini in 2 cups water for 20 minutes. Drain, but save the
liquid. Be aware of sandy solids in the reserved liquid. Not the sort
of crunchy complexity we want, so carefully pour the liquid off the
solids at the bottom of the bowl. Briefly rinse the porcini to further
clean. Chopped the porcini, neatness and uniformity doesn't matter.
Clean the fresh crimini by wiping or rinsing, your preferred method.
Pat dry. Slice to about 1/8' slices, dice the stems.
Parboil the tomatoes to remove the peel, or use canned, saving the
liquid. Chop coarsely.
Heat a layer of olive oil in a large skillet. Use about a good 1/8' of
oil in bottom of pan. When the oil is hot, add just enough fresh
mushrooms so the skillet isn't crowded. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring
with a wooden spoon or, if you don't use wood, an indestructible
man-made spatula that withstands 550 degrees. In any event, don't moosh
the mushrooms with a sharp-sided implement. Also, we don't want to
simmer the mushrooms in their own liquid, which happens if too many
mushrooms are cooked at the same time. So most likely you'll do this
quick cooking in at least two batches.
Remove the fresh mushrooms from the skillet. Put in the porcini,
reserved porcini liquid, tomatoes and their liquid, red wine, garlic
and parsley. Bring to a boil, stirring bottom of skillet to loosen any
solids. Boil slowly until liquid is reduced by about half. Lower heat.
Stir in Grana Padano to melt, then add crimini mushrooms, and salt and
pepper to taste. Let sauce rest in pan over very low heat.
Prepare the pasta while the sauce rests. Remember to use plenty of
water, salt in the water and a thin layer of olive oil over the water.
Cook al dente. Drain into a warm serving dish, add butter if desired,
toss, pour sauce over and toss again. Serve hot topped with shredded
Grana Padano and a Fratelli Perata wine such as Cabernet Franc or