Pasta with foraged porcini mushrooms
Regardless of what the calendar says, it’s definitely fall when foraged mushrooms are popping up at the farmers market. I went to our Kelowna market on a rainy Saturday morning looking for my friend Scott Moran, the local forager, and I was not disappointed. Scott has a small booth at the market with only a few items available each week, depending on what he foraged in the last couple of days. You never know what you’re gonna get. This time he had the rare porcini as well as a few of the exotic red lobster mushrooms. The porcini were huge, unlike I have ever seen before, and in spite of the price tag ($20 for one) I had to have it. Scott said these were the first porcini he was able to find in years, since the forest pests tend to get to them before the foragers do.
Heading back to my car it started to rain hard and I was caught in a downpour with my market buggy overloaded with vine rip heirloom tomatoes, a few zucchini, plums, free stone peaches and a different variety of basil that I have not seen before, with thick purple flowers and green and reddish leaves. My Hummer was parked at a distance and by the time I got there and unloaded my market loot into the car my black linen outfit was soaking wet and rain drizzled from my wet hair everywhere. It was a short adventure and I almost laughed out loud looking at myself in the rear view mirror.
Porcini are prized in Italy and France and foragers bring back specimen that can be a foot in diameter and weigh 2 lb. It’s a meaty mushroom with spongy texture that when cooked, feels silky and smooth much like a fois gras. The spongy cap and thick stem are all edible and one porcini is often enough for a recipe. Of course you can buy dried porcini but it’s a different experience altogether.
We are going to be in Italy this fall and through the winter, staying like locals in rented apartments with a kitchen (of course) and I am looking forward to finding these prized mushrooms at the markets and on restaurant menus. Stay tuned for reports from Italy later this fall.
Once I had the porcini at home the question was what to do with it. I could have made a mushroom ragout with the porcini and lobster mushrooms but decided instead to make a pasta dish and add the porcini, sauteed in olive oil, butter, onion and garlic, to the pasta. I am saving the lobster mushrooms for a risotto tomorrow. My suggestion is to keep the recipe simple and let the mushroom have the stage.
I used thin spaghettini No. 3 (not angel hair) that was thin enough not to overwhelm the mushrooms but still held its own. The pasta cooks in 5 minutes so the whole dish is quick and easy to prepare. I should have taken pictures of the table because it all looked so beautiful with the salad and glasses of wine, but it was dark and I wanted to serve it as soon as things were ready so I only have a couple of shots I snapped outside with my iPhone 6+ (in love).
If you are organized the pasta and porcini can be ready at about the same time ready to be mixed together and served.
10-12 oz spaghettini pasta (No.3)
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add a large pinch of coarse salt.
Add the pasta and cook 5 minutes or according to your package directions, until just al dente.
While the water is heating add the oil and butter into a large skillet and heat over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until softened.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the porcini and stir gently but do not over stir. Let the porcini turn golden.
Add the wine if using and raise the heat to evaporate the wine.
When the pasta is ready drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water in case you need to add to the dish.
Add the pasta, parsley and parmesan to the porcini and mix gently with tongs.
Pile into pasta bowls and serve immediately with additional grated parmesan.