August 02, 2002
Pasta with Porcini Mushroom Sauce

Every time I've tried to make this dish it has fallen far short of my expectations. The best incarnation of this I've ever had - and the one I measure all others by - was in a small restaurant on the island of Paros in Greece. I went there a number of times and every time I ordered that same dish. I can't remember much about how it was made, but the detail that sticks in my mind the most was the intensity of the mushroom flavor. There were only 5 or 6 whole mushrooms in the dish but the flavor was so intense and earthy as to be almost intoxicating.

I think that this time is the closest I've come to replicating that flavor experience. I started off with a recipe for "Pasta with Porcini" from How To Cook Everything but modified it for a more intense flavor.

1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup button mushrooms, quartered
3/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, cut into small chunks
2 shallots, minced
1/2 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
1-3 tbs heavy cream (depending on how creamy you want it)
olive oil

Rehydrate the porcinis in about 2 cups of hot water for 10-20 minutes. Squeeze any excess water out of the porcinis, chop them roughly and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid, add it to the stock and reduce the mixture until it is 1/2 - 3/4 cup.

Meanwhile, salt the chopped, fresh mushrooms and sauté them in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until they begin to brown (about 10 minutes). Now is a good time to add the pasta to your boiling water. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until they and the mushrooms are soft. Mix in the chopped porcinis. Deglaze the pan with the reduced mushroom stock and stir in the cream. Cook for a bit longer to thicken the sauce then add parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper to finish. Mix with pasta adding some pasta water if the sauce is too thick.