Why It Works
- Roasting regular button mushrooms along with rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms in olive oil, thyme, and garlic is a year-round way to mimic the taste and aroma of often hard-to-find fresh porcinis.
- Crème fraîche and hot reconstituted mushroom water create a sauce that is surprisingly light and full of flavor.
I first had pâtes aux cêpes, or pasta with porcinis, during an enormous fit of order envy. I was having dinner with my stepfather in Nice after I had just arrived. And whenever I'm lucky enough to touch down in Provence, I make a beeline for pistou. In Provence, the French version of pesto is smashed together with sun-ruddy tomatoes, packed with basil and garlic, and slick with olive oil. It's gorgeous—except for this one time, when it was literally jarred green pesto mixed with heavy cream. Such a disappointment.
And then across from me sat my happy stepfather with his usual Cheshire Cat grin, swirling fresh tagliatelle (Provence's favorite pasta—it's everywhere) around a fork studded with fresh porcini mushrooms and his favorite (and hometown) Normandy cream. I asked for a taste and regretted it immediately because once you taste heaven, who wants to come back down to earth?
Since fresh porcinis are no picnic to find, this is my year-round version. I roast regular baby button mushrooms with garlic, thyme, and olive oil in the oven, along with rehydrated dried porcinis, until they are crisp, tender, and caramelized. Then, I create a sauce from just crème fraîche and the hot water I used to reconstitute the porcinis. The sauce is surprisingly light and so full of flavor that it instantaneously stains the fresh tagliatelle ribbons I toss into it. The mushrooms shrink up and drink in that olive oil and garlic flavor, punctuating the whole dish. It's extravagant, sinful, and perfect for impressing vegetarians. Tonight I'm having leftovers with a drizzle of truffle oil. Not too shabby.
This recipe may seem very Italian, but the cuisines along the French and Italian Mediterranean are one and the same, sharing ingredients—and often terms—for the same local produce and dishes, then influencing and cross-influencing each other over the years. Last summer while staying in Menton in France, I'd drive across the Italian border to go to the local farmers market, then back to cook. These foods only come down to us in Italian because it's through our Italian-American population that we got to know and love the food. With a little French influence, like crème fraîche, the dish is very much French.
1 3/4 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
5 1/4 ounces fresh baby button mushrooms, finely sliced
2 stems thyme, leaves only (about 1/2 teaspoon leaves)
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh tagliatelle noodles
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Finely chopped parsley leaves and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (for serving)
Place dried porcinis in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap, and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms well, reserving all soaking liquid, and roughly chop porcinis.
Preheat broiler on high. In a large bowl, toss porcinis, button mushrooms, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Transfer to an oven-proof straight-sided 12-inch sautée pan and broil 3 inches below the heat source, tossing every few minutes, until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 15 minutes total.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. When the mushrooms are broiled, pour in the reserved mushroom liquid and the crème fraîche and scrape up any bits of mushroom from the bottom of the pan. Keep warm over low heat. Boil the fresh tagliatelle until al dente (about 2 minutes, or according to package instructions). Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid. Toss the tagliatelle with the mushroom sauce, adding pasta water as needed to moisten. Season to taste with more salt and pepper and serve immediately, topped with parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Oven-proof straight-sided 12-inch sautée pan
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 23g||29%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||48%|
|Total Carbohydrate 65g||24%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||13%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|