Ingredient of the Month: Porcini Mushrooms
Who in the world has never heard of Porcini mushrooms before? These flavoursome gifts from Mother Nature are a key element of many gourmet dishes of the Italian cuisine.
The word “Porcini” means literally “piglets” in Italian, but obviously there is no connection with the animal there, though these mushrooms go particularly well with pork meat.
The recognisable flavour of this particular type mushroom is characterised by a rich and hearty taste, quite nutty and meaty and delicate at the same time. They can add that extra punch to a stews or as a sauce, they are the perfect juicy addition to a delicious steak and a glass of (rigorously) red wine.
In everyone’s imagination Porcini are exactly how a mushroom should look like: a chunky white stalk and a wide brown cap.
They are usually found in European woods, growing under chestnut trees or pine trees, in small clusters during the late Summer months and are ready to be picked at the beginning of Autumn in September or October.
Mushroom hunting is an activity that is now rarely practicesd in Italy, but there are still a few people who enjoy it. It is an activity that requires a good eye, patience and a lot of expertise. If you don’t have time to go and pick your own mushrooms fresh from the forest, like most of us, fear not, because you can easily find Porcini fresh from the local market – if in season – or dried, at the supermarket.
When buying fresh Porcini from your local farmer, here’s what you should look for to make sure they’re good: they should look firm, with white stalks and brown caps, not nicked or broken. If they are broken or the undersides of the caps have a yellowish-brown tinge to them, it means that the the mushrooms are almost too ripe. If you see black spots on the body or they look green below the caps then avid them cause they’re already too ripe.
The one rule you should always follow when cleaning any type of mushrooms is to clean them from the dirt only using a damp cloth – washing them with water isn’t advisable, but it can be done only when really necessary, and always use cold water.
And now, Let’s have a look at some delicious recipes from the Italian tradition that use Porcini mushrooms.
Pappardelle ai Funghi Porcini
- Flour 300 g
- 3 eggs
- Porcini Mushrooms 400 g
- Extra virgin olive oil 30 g
- Water 20 ml
You could make your pappardelle from scratch. All you need is flour and eggs really. If you don’t have the confidence yet or don’t have time, the ready-made ones are a very good option. If you decide to try making pasta yourself, that is the fist thing you want to begin with. When your pasta is ready move on to the Porcini sauce.
Since these mushrooms are so full of flavour they don’t need much else. Sometimes when you add too many other ingredients (herbs and spices) the risk of ruining their natural flavour is high. The porcini pasta sauce is very easy and quick to make. Make sure to have your porcini clean and chopped, ready to be put in a pan. Add olive oil and garlic and let sizzle for a few minutes. When the garlic is golden, add the porcini and let them cook for a few minutes to release all their goodness. Cook the pappardelle in boiling water. When they are ready add them to the pan with the mushrooms and mix well together on the flame (or hob).
To make it creamier, during preparation, you can set aside some of the porcini and blend them with normal button mushrooms (previously cooked). This will make a cream that you can add to the pasta and the rest of the porcini. It will taste amazing!
*recipe inspiration: http://www.agrodolce.it/ricette/tagliatelle-ai-funghi-porcini/
Another great recipe to make the most of a good bunch of porcini is Polenta con Porcini.
It’s an easy and quick recipe, perfect for cold wintery evenings.
- Fresh porcini mushrooms 80 gr
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh thyme
If you’re cooking polenta the traditional way you will need to boil the water, season with salt and pour the polenta in and stir for at least 40’….or you could use ready made polenta that cooks in only 10 minutes or less 🙂
Chop the onion finely and put it in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, add a splash of white wine and let it cook gently for 10 minutes. When ready add the porcini – previously cleaned and chopped as you prefer.
Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve the polenta with mushrooms and sauce on top and enjoy with a glass of wine.
*recipe inspiration: http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/ricetta/secondi/polenta-e-funghi-porcini/
Last recipe we would like to suggest is Pizza with Porcini and Taleggio cheese.
You can use a ready made pizza base or make it from scratch. When you’ll be ready to assemble your pizza start with the base of mozzarella and taleggio sliced, then the porcini – previously cooked in olive oil with a clove of garlic.
Taleggio is a semisoft cheese produced in the north of Italy. It might seem to be quite strong at first, but when it is paired with mozzarella and porcini, all these flavours together will create the perfect balance and your pizza will be amazing!
*recipe inspiration: http://www.salepepe.it/ricette/lieviti/taleggio-porcini-pepe/
We use Porcini in some of our dishes on the à-la-carte menu, come try them in the restaurant!