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Pappardelle alla Boscaiola - Woodsman's Pappardelle

Porcini!Pasta with a mushroom sauce is one of the most common Italian restaurant dishes, and you will encounter it throughout the Peninsula. This recipe calls for porcini, boletus edilis, and they are necessary to do it justice. Ideally, the fresh porcini, but if you cannot find them you will have to make do: Purchase cultivated mushrooms and a 20-gram (1-ounce) packet of dried porcini (this will be about a half cup, packed; if you want, you can use more, but don't exaggerate). Steep the dried mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then mince them and add them to the cultivated mushrooms. Strain the steeping liquid, since it may contain sand, and add it to the sauce as well. The other option, in the absence of fresh porcini, is to use the wild mushrooms available where you live, combining them with some cultured mushrooms if need be and some steeped dried porcini. A last thing: This recipe calls for pappardelle, which are broad (1-inch) strips of pasta. You can, if you want, use fettuccine (half-inch strips) or a hollow form such as penne or tortiglioni.

The recipe will serve 4:

  • 1 pound (400 g) pappardelle, ideally freshly made
  • 3/4 pound (350 g) porcini
  • 2 shallots
  • 3/4 pound (350 g) canned tomatoes
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • A clove of garlic
  • The leaves of a sprig of rosemary
  • A few leaves of sage
  • Olive oil
  • Dry white wine
  • Salt & pepper
  • Heavy cream (optional, see below)
  • Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano

Clean the mushrooms, brushing the dirt away from the stems, and separate the caps from the stems; dice the stems and cube the caps, keeping them separate.

Mince the shallots and the herbs and sauté them for a few minutes in 4 tablespoons of oil in a casserole. Add the diced stems, cook another minute, and then add a half cup of wine and the tomatoes. Season with a little pepper and simmer the mixture over a very gentle flame for a half hour. Add a little more wine and a drop of water (or the liquid the mushrooms steeped in if you are using dried mushrooms), and the cubed caps.

Continue simmering the sauce over a gentle flame. Depending upon how much moisture the mushrooms contain you may need to add more liquid -- a splash of wine and a little hot water, or if you'd rather a quarter cup of heavy cream, and, if need be, a little water.

In the meantime bring pasta water to a boil, salt it, and cook the pappardelle. Drain the pasta and season them with the sauce; serve them with grated cheese for those who want it.

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