Pietro's Linguine al Porcini
At least once a week I make my weekly journey to my hometown version of "foodie mecca," our local Italian grocers. Over the better part of the past year Valoroso has been expanding and upgrading and introducing many ingredients directly from all corners of Italy. They have always carried and introduced new lines of pastas, sauces, and ingredients that leave me weak in the knees and my mind spinning with recipe ideas. When I am searching for fresh ricotta, burrata, porcini mushrooms, figs, truffles, or a myriad of other products this is my "go to" place to find those longed for ingredients to add "gusto" to my kitchen.
On certain days Chef Pietro teases us with mouth watering dishes made from the products available. The first time we met he prepared the dish you see here today that appeared in my kitchen that evening. There are two standout ingredients in this recipe. First of all pasta from the city of Gragnano in Italy and secondly Porcini mushrooms. Italians are known for taking ‘simple’ dishes and basic ingredients to the height of perfection which is easy to do with quality ingredients.
My kitchen cupboards are overflowing with pasta of every shape and description, but, as I wander the aisles at Valoroso I am hypnotized, "What is one more?" One of the latest additions to their pasta family are from Gragnano which is famous for it's pastas in Italy. Alongside large manufacturers like De Cicco and Barilla there are smaller artisanal and organic companies like la Fabricca della pasta Gragnano in the mountains of Lattari overlooking the Gulf of Naples. These pasta companies have produced pasta for over 500 years in time-honoured tradition. There were once over 300 pasta factories in the area which has now been reduced to approximately 12 at last count, a mere shadow of the past I hope to discover. Gragnano has always been well known for its production of prestigious pasta, sparkling wine and its delicious "Monk Provolone."
For those of you who follow this blog you will know of my upcoming trip to Italy.One of the many adventures awaiting me on my Italian Sojourn is a tour of a pasta factory and the town of Gragnano not far from Naples. It will be late October when the air has that hint of crispness. The fall after all is . I am told that in Italy the weather is most often pleasant, the countryside beautiful with the leaves changing colour on the trees, the mists in the morning, the sun low on the horizon, and the hot pink cyclamens in bloom. I am told the air smells of firewood and the earth of rain!
Another remarkable part of the fall in Italy is the , , , , and " (the new wine) are all . For meat lovers, this is also the time of the year when you can eat , since the hunting season is open. Wild boar, hare and pheasant meat is quite easy to find if you visit a rural area. The forest offers a delightful feast for the eyes and the nose, and the table is "a celebration of the tastebuds."
But enough daydreaming for now and back to our dish. Next we move on to our second ingredient in Pietro's pasta dish, the Porcini mushroom which Italians affectionately call the "the piglet." The meat-like texture of Porcini, with its earthy and somewhat nutty flavour is unequaled among mushrooms and lends itself to countless dishes. Italy is probably the world's biggest market for porcini, Every grown-up full-blooded Italian eats porcini at least three times a week from August to December and always treated with great devotion in salads, soups, meat loafs, pies,and risotto.
Dried porcini are featured in this dish which have a concentrated flavour and mushroom aroma that is excellent in risotto, soups, and amazing sauces like this one. To prepare dried Porcini steep them in enough boiling water to cover until they are reconstituted. After draining the Porcini mince them, but, keep the steeping liquid. This liquid adds even more concentrated Porcini flavour to the recipe, just make sure you strain it first. When buying dried Porcini look them over carefully. A strong mushroom aroma should greet you once opening the package, if the mushrooms have no fragrance, then they have no flavour either.
I fell in love with this pasta dish when I first tasted it from Pietro's demonstration. The dried porcini and the artisanal pasta make for a memorable dish.
**Pietro's Linguine al Porcini**
1 medium onion chopped
50 g dry porcini mushrooms (whole or chopped)
1 small can Valoroso pizza or tomato sauce
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups stock (chicken, beef or vegetable)
500 g linguine Gragnano (or any long Gragnano pasta)
reserved water from mushrooms
Boil some water in a kettle. Place porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour enough water to cover and allow to soak for 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and brown the onion until translucent. Remove the mushrooms from the water with a spoon and roughly chop. Place the mushroom water aside for later use.
Saute mushrooms with the onion for 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Once the wine evaporates add the stock, tomato sauce and slowly add the reserved mushroom water through a strainer so as not to add the sediment on the bottom. Simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Cook pasta according to the package directions, drain, add to sauce mixture and serve,
Serves 4 people