Monday, March 1, 2010

Sundays and Pasta with Wild Mushrooms


Sundays have always been special. As a  kid growing up in Astoria, New York, Sundays meant pasta with meatballs and sausages or bracciole at home or at my grandmother's house. When it was at our house, my mom would be up early getting ready for dinner which was usually served at about 2:00 PM, late enough for the sleepiest among us to have gone to Mass and returned. In those days, people dressed for church adding to the special feeling the day had. You came home from church greeted in the hall with the smell of sauce on the stove, and had just enough time to change and read the funnies before you were called to the table. 

Neeta and I have our Sunday routines too. We usually are up by 8:00 or 9:00, the latest, and the first order of business is Sunday breakfast, which in our house means pancakes. After that, we go out either shopping, or to the park, or just for a walk in the neighborhood. This Sunday was typical. After a walk in our snow covered neighborhood, we came home and she turned on the TV for an hour or so of Bollywood movies while I messed around on the computer answering e mails, checking out the latest buzz on St. John's Basketball, (a dismal task lately) and hunting around for interesting food blogs. Around 2:00, we decided we were hungry, so I started thinking about dinner. On Thursday,  fearing yet another snowfall in New York, I did my weekend food shopping and bought a package of "baby bella" mushrooms along with some dried wild mushrooms (Trader Joe's sells a mix of porcini, shitake, black and oyster mushrooms). I always have pasta in my pantry, so I thought I would combine the two and make pasta with mushrooms. As there was only a little bit of milk left and I had no cream, I decided on mushrooms and tomato sauce. I rarely shop for a specific meal preferring to look for produce that looks good and that I haven't bought recently. Then, I decide what to make based on what's in the pantry and who I'm cooking for. I believe if people planned meals like that, they would throw away less food, a Your Italian Grandmother mortal sin.

So the first step is to soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for about 20 minutes. At the same time, I put my pasta water on to boil, minced two cloves of garlic, sliced the crimini (or baby potabella mushrooms) and got out my secret ingredient, a can of porcini and truffle oil.

Get your pan hot, add about 3 Tbs of extra-virgin olive oil and saute the fresh mushrooms until they begin to color and release some liquid. (Don't salt them yet)
After the mushrooms begin to release liquid, push them to the side and add the garlic to the pan. As soon as the garlic begins to fragrance the oil, mix it in with the mushrooms. Now, you can salt the pan.
Two steps follow: First, I added about 1/2 cup tomato sauce to the pan. In my case I had some left over in the 'fridge. It was a little tight (meaning it was fairly dense) so I also added a little of my boiling pasta water to the pan with it. Next, I drained the wild mushrooms using a strainer to eliminate any residue and added them. I lowered the heat and let them simmer till the pasta reached a point about 1 minute shy of being al dente.

Finally, I added the pasta to the pan, along with the water I had soaked my mushrooms in (again, strained to avoid any residue). I turned the heat up in the pan and cooked everything for an additional minute or so till the pasta was perfect and had absorbed the remaining liquid in the pan. If you look carefully at the picture, you will notice the amount of sauce in the pan is just enough to coat the pasta well much like the amount of  dressing used in a salad.
Off the heat, I stirred in about 3 Tbs of that porcini/ truffle oil,  1/4 cup of grated parmigiana reggiano and 2 Tbs of chopped parsley. I served additional grated cheese on the side-a nice Sunday meal with a little salad to finish it.


  1. Joe, this looks wonderful. I stopped bu just to say hello and stayed much longer than I planned. I really enjoy your blog and will be back often to see what is going on.