Sometimes, on a whim, Stefano brings home flowers, or dark chocolate, or a great, musty-smelling French cheese. His most recent find, however, was a triumphant one. Morels. Spugnole in Italian.
These crinkly, cavernous, conical mushrooms emerge in spring and are harvested into early summer. Their texture is meaty and their flavor nutty, yet delicate at the same time. Morels are best in delicate recipes that afford them center-stage.
Stefano’s “find” was reminiscent of his childhood, when his mom and dad and aunts and uncles brought the children along to andare per funghi, or search for mushrooms, in the selva di Paliano, a protected natural park near his father’s hometown of Paliano, in southern Lazio south of Rome. Stefano’s aunt Elena’s brother-in-law Pietro knew which mushrooms were edible and which weren’t. To be sure though, Stefano’s parents Maria and Andrea always ate any dishes prepared with hand-picked wild mushrooms first, and waited until the next day to let Stefano, his brother Marco and his sister Debora try them.
Fettuccine ai Funghi
for 4-6 servings
Morels, or any mushroom of your choice
2 cloves of garlic
Dry white wine
One package of fettuccine, preferably egg-noodle (approx. 500 g or 16 oz)
Flat leaf Italian parsley, diced
Rinse the morels quickly, only if needed. Chop the stems and caps into large pieces, and set aside. Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with olive oil. Quarter the garlic cloves lengthwise, sauté them in the oil over medium-low heat until golden brown, remove and discard them. Add a generous dash of dry white wine the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to simmer uncovered for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add a bit more wine and 1/4 of a stick of butter. Cover and allow to cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let rest.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a heaping handful of salt, and the fettuccine. Cook to al dente according to the instructions on the package. Drain well and return to the pot. Pour the mushrooms and liquid over the pasta and mix well. Serve in pasta bowls with a sprinkling of flat leaf Italian parsley on top.