I have gained access (via my brother and his Polish girlfriend) to an amazing supply of dried wild porcini mushrooms, grown in a Polish forest close to the Ukrainian border. My brother’s girlfriend is part of a family and friends Polish food network which brings the very best homemade and locally sourced food to the Polish community in Brussels, where my brother and his girlfriend live. Flavours from home are exchanged between the food-loving friends and I’ve been seriously lucky to get in on the act.
His girlfriend knows how much I love cooking with porcini mushrooms and always sends a carefully wrapped, sealed container full of porcinis whenever my brother comes over to London on the Eurostar for a visit.
I’ve added cream to my original porcini and chestnut mushroom pasta recipe to make it a bit more comforting and rich, which is just what you need for dinner during those long, cold, dark January winter evenings.
Make sure to keep enough of the salty pasta water to one side after you’ve added the spaghetti to the mushroom sauce, as you’ll need to add quite a bit of it back into the sauce to maintain its creaminess.
Porcini mushroom and cream pasta
15g dried porcini mushrooms, torn into tiny pieces
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
300g chestnut (brown) mushrooms, finely sliced
20g fresh parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
300ml cream – either; double cream (for richness), single cream (light creaminess) or a mix of double and single cream (just the right creaminess)
Sea salt for the pasta water
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Put the torn pieces of dry porcini mushrooms in a measuring jug and cover with 100ml of boiling water. Leave to soften for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile,place a dry medium size frying pan on a very low heat to warm up as you get the ingredients ready; chop the mushrooms, garlic and parsley.
Add all the extra virgin olive oil to the warm pan, turn the heat to high and fry the chopped garlic for about 20 seconds. Do not let it brown.
Add the finely sliced mushrooms and stir. Keep the heat high so all the water released by the mushrooms can evaporate and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 7 minutes.
Boil the spaghetti in at least 3 litres of water in large pan with a tablespoon of salt. Good quality spaghetti can take up to 10 minutes to cook and the mushroom sauce will cook in that time.
Once the mushrooms in the pan have developed a dark brown colour add the softened porcini mushrooms with all its liquid stock (made with the boiling water). Stir and fry for a few minutes to evaporate all the liquid stock on a high heat.
Add a few grinds of black pepper and the finely chopped parsley, stir and continue to fry for another minute.
Turn the heat to its lowest setting and add the cream. Stir and let the sauce simmer for about 2 minutes and then turn off the heat.
When the spaghetti is cooked al dente (soft on the outside but slightly hard in the middle) add all of it to the mushroom and cream sauce in the frying pan with 4 tablespoons of pasta water and stir well.
Good quality pasta will absorb most of the sauce in a few minutes, so keep adding a tablespoon or so of the pasta water and stirring to get to the point where the sauce is still just visible and creamy.
Serve with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
Preparation time 15 minutes, cooking 15 minutes, serves 4