Fettuccine ai funghi porcini

Alas, 2012 is behind us.

Photo from Corriere della Sera

Photo from Corriere della Sera

CAPODANNO: IN 300MILA A CONCERTO FORI IMPERIALI A ROMA

Photo from Corriere della Sera

Although our celebration was more subdued than that of the Romans who filled  the streets for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration, we nonetheless welcomed in 2013 with good company, a lot of laughs, and the obligatory midnight consumption of lenticchie e cotechino, lentil soup with a special, fresh sausage made of pork, which heralds good fortune in the coming year.

2012 certainly had its ups and downs!  We spent much of the year displaced from our house, while it was being rebuilt following the fire.  Rebuilding took enormous time, energy and patience, but happily we have returned, are nearly settled, and best yet, our turn-of-the-century Minneapolis home now has more closet space and a new kitchen to cook in.

Family in KitchenSummer of 2012 also marked a visit back to Rome, and a spectacular road trip through the northern Italian wine regions of Trentino-Alto Adige, La Valpolicella, and Piedmont and Le Langhe.  The trip ended as all trips should, with a few days at the sea in the Cinque Terre, with its amazing views and delicious seafood.  We really can’t complain.

2013 began just as pleasantly, on a cold Minneapolis day warmed by the visit of a friend and her charming baby daughter, a plate of fettuccine ai funghi porcini, paired very nicely with a glass of 2006 Martinenga Barbaresco, and a few leftover lentils thrown in for good measure.

Fettucine ai funghi porcini

Much more could be written about funghi porcini – their earthy texture and nutty flavor, their simple yet elegant quality.  However, on this New Year’s Day we chose to just enjoy them.

Buon Anno a tutti!

Ingredients
(for 4-6 servings)

Approx. 85 grams (3 ounces) dried porcini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
1 stick (115 grams, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
Flat leaf Italian Parsley – optional
One package (approx. 500 grams) egg pasta – fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle.  Or, make your own.
Sea salt

Pasta fatta in casa

Directions
Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms according to the instructions on the package.  We soaked ours in three cups of hot water for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Funghi Porcini

Funghi Porcini

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Slice the garlic lengthwise into quarters and sauté it in the butter.  Remove the mushrooms from their liquid and add them to the skillet with the butter and garlic.  Preserve the liquid from the mushrooms, and set it aside.  Add the white wine, and let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms become soft yet still firm, and the sauce turns creamy.  Remove the garlic.

Fettuccine ai funghi porcinifettuccine ai funghi porcini

In the meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Toss a heaping handful of sea salt into the water, and add the pasta.  Cook until al dente according to the instructions on your package.  If you made your own pasta, the cooking time will be about 3-4 minutes; homemade egg pasta cooks much faster than store bought pasta.

Drain the pasta, and return it to the skillet with the mushrooms.  Stir together until mixed.  If needed, you can add a little of the water used to rehydrate the mushrooms.  Serve the pasta hot with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf Italian parsley.  (We didn’t have any parsley on hand, and since it was New Year’s Day and stores were closed, we simply omitted it).

Fettuccine ai funghi porcini

Pappardelle con ricotta e fiori di zucca

We’re back to writing about zucchini blossoms.  They are just so pretty, fragrant and delicious that we couldn’t stop with just one summer dish, especially when we ran across this recipe for Pappardelle with Ricotta, Zucchini Blossoms and Basil Oil in the New York Times recently.

Usually we write about our own recipes, or those that come from our family and friends in Italy.  Every once in a while, though, a published recipe catches out attention, and we decide to try it.  The ingredient list of this recipe captivated us.  Fresh ricotta, zucchini blossoms and basil oil – what an ingenious combination!  And there isn’t a more delightful pasta to host it than loopy, ribbon-like pappardelle.

Our intuition was correct.  The pasta turned out wonderful – delicate and balanced, perfect for a late-summer dinner.   We made a few changes to the recipe, adding additional zucchini flowers and ricotta, and sautéing the zucchini for longer than called for in the original recipe, as we prefer them more tender.  We chose the sweeter and milder flavor of cow’s milk ricotta over ricotta made from sheep’s milk.  Go out of your way to find high quality fresh ricotta.

The timing of this recipe was perfect, as we have submitted it to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, a weekly roundup of pasta dishes prepared by food bloggers around the world.  Presto Pasta Nights was created by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast, and this edition, the 226th, is hosted by Simona of Briciole, whose homemade ricotta and pasta recipes we will attempt the next time we make Pappardelle con ricotta e fiori di zucca.

Ingredients
Serves 4

For the basil oil
1 bunch of basil
1 clove garlic
Zest of a quarter lemon
1/2 C olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the pasta
1 lb pappardelle
2 small zucchinis
1 cup fresh cow’s milk ricotta
12-18 zucchini blossoms
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Pecorino cheese

Directions

Prepare the basil oil by chopping the basil and mincing the garlic finely, and adding it to the olive oil.  Grate the lemon zest and add it to the oil.  Salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Place a large pot of water on high heat, and while waiting for the water to boil, prepare the zucchini and blossoms.  Slice the zucchini thinly and set aside.  Remove the stems and stamen or pistils (read here for more about zucchini flower gender) and rinse the flowers carefully under water.  Pat dry, and then cut lengthwise into strips.

When the water boils, throw a handful of coarse salt into the pot, and add the pappardelle.  Cook until al dente according to the time specified on the package.  While the pasta cooks, sauté the zucchini slices in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, salting and peppering the zucchini to taste.

Drain the pasta when cooked, retaining 1-2 cups of the cooking water.  Return the pappardelle to the pan with the zucchini slices.  Add the zucchini flowers and the ricotta, and stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, adding the pasta’s cooking water as needed to render the ricotta creamy and the zucchini flowers soft.

Serve immediately with a a drizzle of basil oil and a dusting of pecorino cheese on top.