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Chef's Corner: Pasta with Mushroom Sauce

A classic Italian pasta might include porcini mushrooms. In most places, fresh are extremely hard to find. Dried are generally available, though pricey. On the other hand, your everyday 'white mushroom' is everywhere and it turns out with a little tweaking you can get great depth of flavor with what might otherwise be considered just a 'lowly' fungus. Just "simple" ingredients for a fantastic meal.

This recipe is adapted from Marcella's Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan. It serves 4 to 6, though we admit to preparing two thirds of the recipe and two hungry people ate all of it.

Delicious and Easy: Pasta with Mushroom Sauce

Pasta col sugo di fuhgi coltivati

NOTES: This recipe is all about how simple ingredients come together in a quick to make, very tasty meal. Each mouthful should have have little bits of flavorful mushroom, garlic and the rest. The olive oil at the end carries the flavors across the dish. Don't even think about adding cheese on top, that would cover the wonderful tastes.

Yes, the dish has (shudder) anchovies. It is one of those ingredients that, when used in moderation, disappears into the meal, but adds a huge 'meaty' flavor. Don't tell, and anchovy 'haters' will be asking what makes that really great taste. Smile, and say, it's a family secret.

  • 1 pound fresh white mushrooms

  • 1 TB butter

  • 1/3rd cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 cup chopped onion

  • 1 TB chopped garlic

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste, we used a lot!)

  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

  • 4 flat anchovy fillets, chopped, or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste

  • 1/2 cup canned Italian peeled plum tomatoes, drained and cut up

  • 4 TB chopped parsley

  • 1 pound penne or similarly shaped pasta, though one night we used the 'ear shaped' orecchiette which was great.

  • More extra virgin olive oil to toss with the pasta

Wash or otherwise clean the mushrooms, then cut each entire mushroom lengthwise as thinly as possible. This is much easier if they are very fresh. If any slice is wider than an inch, cut them down. We prefer to slice all of the mushrooms first and then cut them to size as needed. Complete accuracy is not required.

In a large frying pan (non-stick works well here), heat the butter and the 1/3rd cup of oil (you can get away with a little less if you wish). Over medium heat sauté the onions until they are translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until they have turned light brown.

Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Most recipes here say a grinding or two of pepper, but that's all relative to your grinder and in any event, as mentioned above, we used what amounts to a lot more than that, likely upwards of maybe a couple of teaspoons (you can see it in the picture; but who measures when you're grinding away. Use what you like.) That's the way we like it. Stir all the ingredients together and cook over medium heat until all the liquid which will be produced by the mushrooms has evaporated, taking care not to go to far. You don't want to overcook the mushrooms.

Add the wine, stir and continue to cook until the wine has evaporated.

Start cooking the pasta in salted boiling water. Cook, according to package instructions until the pasta is 'al dente'. Add the anchovies, tomatoes and parsley to the mushroom pan. Stir and cover. Cook for another 10 minutes. (Time the pasta to be ready when the sauce is done, but you can actually make the sauce earlier and let it sit then reheat.)

Drain then add the cooked pasta to the frying pan and mix the sauce with it. In a thin stream add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil and stir all the ingredients again.

The picture at the top of this post is our plated version with orecchiette pasta, and here's one with the easy to find penne:

Serve immediately (we suggest on heated plates). WINE SUGGESTION: Cabernet Franc or Merlot

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