One of the very best things about this time of year is the arrival of wild mushrooms. The UK is home to more than 15,000 varieties of wild funghi; some edible, some very much not. We are incredibly lucky to get beautiful chanterelles, morels, chicken of the woods, puffballs and many more varieties growing wild in our woods. What is so special is that they are truly seasonal and so you have to grab them when you can.
All our native mushrooms are wonderful, but if you are fortunate you might come across some porcini mushrooms in a local deli or larger food market. These are Italian cep mushrooms and the literal translation of the name is ‘piglets’. These are the mushrooms you can buy dried and soak them to add a deep richness in cooking, but fresh they are in a different league. The flavour is earthy, nutty, rich and meaty. It is unrivalled and truly worth the shockingly high prices as a seasonal treat.
Choose your mushrooms wisely when you are shelling out so much for them. They should be firm, dry and with as few dents and gauges as possible. Do not be alarmed about the dirt on them; this means they have come straight from the ground rather than being processed in a factory. Never wash mushrooms, as they will soak up water like a sponge and be ruined. Instead, use a clean cloth or soft nail brush to gently brush off as much dirt and debris as you can.
Pasta is a perfect partner to porcini and this is a very simple recipe; the mushrooms are so rich that you only want additional ingredients that will enhance, rather than mask the porcini. If you cannot find porcini, you can use a variety of supermarket mushrooms and add a few dried porcini that you have pre-soaked. It will not taste the same, but it will still be very good.
The only time consuming thing is making the pasta. You can, of course, buy fresh tagliatelle, but I would not use dried for this recipe. Porcini are so special they deserve the extra effort.
Tagliatelle Fatte a Mano con Funghi Porcini
serves 2 hungry people
For the pasta
200g 00 flour
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
fine semolina for dusting
For the sauce
250g fresh porcini mushrooms (or a variety of others such as portobello, chestnut and chantarelles)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
3tbs extra virgin olive oil
Large splash of dry white wine
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan to serve
- Make the pasta.
- Clean and slice the porcini.
- Add the butter and olive oil to a large frying pan, warm over a medium heat until the butter starts to foam and add the chopped garlic. Fry for a few moments, making sure the garlic does not colour.
- Add the porcini to the garlic, butter and oil and cook down. Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta.
- Add a large slosh of white wine and cook down until you cannot smell the alcohol anymore. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, which will only be a matter of moments.
- Taste the sauce, season and add the parsley. Add a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Drain the pasta, making sure to reserve some of the cooking water. Add immediately to the pan of sauce and mix well, adding small amounts of cooking water until the pasta is coated and glossy.
- Serve immediately with grated parmesan and a sharp Italian white wine.