One of the things I appreciate about my childhood is the freedom my parents gave me to be adventurous in restaurants. They were always of the mind that if my sisters and I were curious to try something from a menu, we should. It allowed me, in a small way, to make my own food discoveries at a young age even if the experience at the time may not have always been pleasant.
Having been raised with a primarily Asian diet, I was no stranger to anchovies or shrimp paste–I liked both. But cottage cheese? I considered it a fail when, at 10, I ordered it as an accompaniment to my breakfast. Or how about Alfredo sauce? This adult who loves all things rich and laden with cream pooh-poohed it in pasta as a child. I was a red-sauce girl all the way. Finally, growing up in San Francisco where potential food discoveries could be made around every corner even 30 years ago, I met my first portobello mushroom burger. To me, a burger meant a beef patty and two buns. When my order arrived and I saw the biggest mushroom I’ve ever seen at the time, no meat in sight, I was convinced that someone in the kitchen made a serious omission in preparing my “burger”. This was during the days of the famous Wendy’s ad campaign. I wanted to make like Clara Peller and say, “Where’s the beef?”
These days, all of these early “mistakes” are welcome foods in my kitchen. I still don’t eat much cottage cheese (though I have developed a liking for it) but I would happily swim in creamy sauce if allowed. Mushrooms? Love them. However, a few years ago, something turned me off eating them raw. They are a staple in my kitchen for my husband loves them in salads but I always take a pass and give them all to him.
In this dish, there is nary a raw mushroom in sight. Cremini mushrooms are cooked down to extract their flavor and along with their dried porcini cousins, simmered in wine and cream for even more complexity and richness. No beef necessary.
Note: I used a dried tagliatelle made with durum wheat and egg. It had a bit too much bite even for this flavorful sauce so I would use a thinner pasta next time. I don’t ever buy “fresh” pasta from the grocery store but if you make your own tagliatelle, this would be no problem. Alternatively, you can still use dried tagliatelle but don’t cook an entire pound for the amount of sauce below.
Tagliatelle in Rich Mushroom Sauce
* Serves 2.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, chopped and soaked in 1 cup luke warm water for about 2o minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of liquid.
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup half and half (feel free to use cream)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- salt and ground white pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnish
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or garnish
- 1/2 – 3/4 pound tagliatelle pasta (or spaghetti if you prefer)
- Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Heat olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan and add sliced mushrooms. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until they start to wilt then add the chopped porcini mushrooms. Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the wine and the porcini liquid, turn up the heat a bit and let the liquid cook down to half.
- Add the half and half (or cream if that’s what you’re using), nutmeg and parsley. Bring down to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and serve over pasta.