My uncle in Italy has a house in the Dolomites. When I go and visit him in autumn, the first thing we do is go Porcini hunting. It is one of the most relaxing things ever. Hiking through idyllic forests, splashed with a variety of greens, browns, yellows and orange. In our foraging, we would talk about everything and nothing, and when we found one of our specimens, the Porcini, we would start thinking of how we were going to prepare it that night.
My family is originally from Emilia-Romagna, which is the region in Italy that has brought you such sublime classics such as Tagliatelle, Tortellini, Parmesan, Balsamic, Mortadella and the ubiquitous Ragu alla Bolognese. In his home in Molinella, my great-aunt had a small but complete garden, with all sorts of fruits and vegetables. The first time I visited them, I was absolutely fascinated when they opened the garage door. There in the middle of the garage was a gorgeous, pristine 1975 canary yellow Alfa Romeo Spider. And surrounding it was 3 entire walls, covered floor to ceiling with canned tomatoes, plums, cherries, eggplant, artichokes, and Porcini mushrooms. The art of canning for winter is something that is lost on us, now that we live in this global and easily accessible fruit and vegetable world. Long gone are the days when you HAD to can to be able enjoy the bounties of summer throughout the winter months.
Alas, but I digress. Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola is loosely translated to Tagliatelle in the “woodsy” way. Bosco means woods, or forest, and this sauce is generally made with Porcini mushrooms, or any type of wild mushroom that you have on hand according to the season. It can just be the mushrooms with garlic and parsley, or you can add a little cream, as we do to almost anything in Emilia-Romagna. Yesterday I made it with Cremini mushrooms, 1) because I had some left over from my Tunisian Brik. And 2) because Porcini are out of season. You can make this with whatever mushrooms you find, but it is nicer if they are wild and not our cultivated button mushrooms. It is a simple, filling and exquisite meal with very little prep time. Just make sure you have the best pasta, or home-made if you’re up to it!
So here is what you’re going to need:
1 lb Tagliatelle pasta
2 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb porcini, or any other wild mushroom, sliced or chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
300 ml of cream (optional)
1.5 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg
Parmesan cheese, grated
A few glasses of wine, to drink while you are cooking :) and maybe some Paolo Conte to listen to.
In a large stock pot, bring your water to a boil. In the mean time, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter to melt. When it is bubbling, add the garlic and cook about 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms, and sauté until nicely browned. Reduce the heat to low, add half of your chopped parsley, and the cream. Cook until the cream just starts to bubble and thicken a little bit, and remove from heat. Add your salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Keep warm.
When the water is boiling, add your tagliatelle, and cook until just al dente. Strain, reserving just a smidge of the cooking water and then add to your skillet and toss with the cream sauce over high heat for about a minute. Place in your plates and top with the rest of your chopped parsley and parmesan cheese. Finito!
From my kitchen to yours,