We haven’t had a great mushrooming year so far, partly due to lack of rain and too many wildfires. Luckily, past years yielded so much that I still have several jars of dried porcini, so with the first chilly morning of the season, I wanted to make a mushroom-y and satisfying pasta dish.
You don’t have to pick your own wild mushrooms – in fact unless you know what you’re doing I don’t advise it. Most good supermarkets sell small packets of assorted edible dried mushrooms. I particularly love porcini for their deeply savory, intense, earthy and almost meaty flavor – and they make the best mushroom sauce for pasta.
Canned Italian tomatoes are a cupboard staple for me and there’s always a good hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in my fridge. Combined with porcini, they create a robust and hearty supper dish that’s really easy to make.
FUSILI WITH PORCINI & TOMATOES
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 slices of pancetta, chopped
1.5 cups (360ml) of chopped Italian plum tomatoes, along with their juice
1 oz (28g) of dried porcini mushrooms
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1lb (450g) of uncooked pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to serve
Start by soaking the dried porcini in 2 cups of hot water for 30 minutes. Strain the mushrooms, capturing all the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms under cold water, chop them coarsely and add them back to their soaking liquid.
Heat the butter and oil in a wide sauté pan until foaming then add the shallot and pancetta. Sauté gently, stirring until the shallot is translucent and the pancetta is golden.
Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the chopped mushrooms and their soaking liquid and a good grind of sea salt and black pepper.
Simmer gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the seasoning.
Cook the pasta according to instructions, drain and toss with the sauce. Serve with plenty of grated Parm to pass around.