It’s not Father’s Day in Italy, but it is in our house. We have a strawberry plant on our back balcony and I’ve been carefully watching and tending so that Jeff’s first treat of the day was a handful of fragrant fragolini or frais des bois strawberries. I confess that I usually dole out a ration of one sweet berry every morning for each of us and it is something to look forward to.
For lunch, I was taking requests and the request was for pasta with porcini and pecorino cheese. The tricky part of this recipe is the pecorino as I’ve never found a good Sardinian style pecorino outside of Italy, so use a cheese that you or the Dad in your life enjoys, just be sure it has a low melting temp so that it will gets nice and soft as soon as it hits the warm pasta. We happen to have a ton of pecorino in the house as Jeff spent some time this morning with our friend and cheese maker, Francesco. I ask for ricotta and I get ricotta and enough other cheese to last us…well, at least through next week!
These are not exact measurements because you are going to have to adapt this to the funghi or mushrooms that you have on hand and the moisture content will vary considerably.
1 handful dry porcini mushrooms
1 handful fresh or frozen mushrooms of choice
3T olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 nice wedge of pecorino
2T breadcrumbs + 1 clove crushed garlic + a little bit of olive oil
Egg pasta for 2
Using dried porcini will give you a stronger mushroom flavor, but if you have the option buy the cheaper broken up bits, you don’t need to spend money on whole slices unless you need them for presentation purposes, but for pasta…no way. Cover the mushrooms with cool water and let soak for about 15 minutes or until soft.
Place the 3T of olive oil and 2T of butter in a sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, add the shallots and garlic and cook everything making sure not to let anything brown. Add the fresh or frozen mushrooms (if you have frozen, let them defrost in a bowl of warm water before you add them to the pot). Let this mixture gently simmer.
Get your pasta water boiling. Nice size pot of water, add salt right before the water looks like it will boil, add be sure to add plenty of salt, the water should be ocean salty. Egg pasta cooks much quicker than dried spaghetti, so you are probably looking at only 5 minutes of boil time.
Add the porcini mushrooms to the sauce mixture and add a few tablespoons of the porcini juice to the mixture again keeping everything at a low cooking temperature.
While your waiting for the pasta water to boil, heat an additional teaspoon of so of olive oil in a small pan, add one clove of crushed garlic and let the clove gently fry in the oil, but don’t let it burn. You are flavoring the olive oil, once the clove starts to get brown and wrinkly remove it from the pan and add the breadcrumbs, thoroughly coating them with the oil and lightly browning the crumbs. Add a little sprinkle of salt and let cool on the side. This is the hardest part for me… I am famous for burning the crumbs, the croutons, the toast….I always have to have double the bread on hand because for sure I will burn the first batch.
Use an egg pasta, like tagliatelle, you want something soft that will absorb flavors. When it’s about a minute from being done, spoon a ladleful of pasta water into the mushroom sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the mushroom sauce mixture, toss with the remaining tablespoon of butter and add the toasted breadcrumbs. Turn the pasta out onto a plate and immediately grate the soft pecorino over the pasta. Now eat it fast, while it’s steaming hot and enjoy with a worthy Dad.