We were in Florence recently and stopped off at the amazing central market there where you can find almost any Italian ingredient you could possibly want. We spied fresh porcini mushrooms which we have not seen anywhere in Umbria so we bought a pound of them (half a kilo) to bring home.
I was so excited to have fresh porcini that I just could not decide how I wanted to use them. My husband voted for a pasta dish and things just fell together from there. I love Italian pancetta which you can buy already diced in small packages and I always keep some on hand, both the smoked and sweet types. I decided to dice up a little onion and cook it up with the chopped porcini, pancetta, and minced garlic in some olive oil.
I also had some fresh ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator that I had already peeled and seeded so I chopped them up to add them to the mix. My porcini mixture was still a little dry as my tomatoes were not breaking down, so I added a small cup (1/4 to 1/3 cup) of pasta water to help develop the sauce. We topped our sauce on artisan penne pasta from Puglia, but any pasta would work out well.
In place of the porcini, feel free to use portobello mushrooms, and one (14 ounce) can of tomatoes can replace the fresh, chopped tomatoes. If pancetta is difficult to find in your area, bacon would probably be the best substitute. Generally it is said you do not add cheese to pasta if the sauce is spicy, or contains seafood or mushrooms, but I like a little grated Pecorino cheese on this pasta dish.
Our Fresh Porcini Mushrooms
- 1 Pound Fresh Porcini Mushrooms (Or Other Fresh Mushrooms of Choice), Cleaned And Chopped
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced
- 1/3 Cup Diced Pancetta Or Bacon
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Cups Chopped Fresh Tomatoes, Peeled & Seeded or 1 (14 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Pound Pasta
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and then add the onions, porcini, and pancetta.
- Cook for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat stirring often until the vegetables have softened and everything is just beginning to brown.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two.
- Add the tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.
- Reduce the heat, and continue to cook until the mixture comes together as a sauce, about 10 minutes. (If it seems too thick, add a small cup of hot pasta water.)
- Just before your pasta has completed cooking add the parsley and mix well.
- Cook the pasta until it is "al dente".
- Drain reserving a small cup of pasta water.
- Toss the pasta with the sauce, and mix well, adding a few tablespoons of pasta water if it seems a little too thick. Serve immediately.