When I lived in Italy, I would make this dish with fresh Porcini mushrooms, which are literally To. Die. For. I have never seen fresh ones here and the dried ones, when you reconstitute them are NOTHING like the fresh. So, I had a hankering for this dish this week, while my 29-month old grandson was staying with me for the week. Because fresh Porcini are not available, I made this Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms & Peas in a Light Cream Sauce with some beautiful fresh Shiitake mushrooms I had just bought the day before. While my grandson loved the dish, me, not so much at the time.
I honestly thought this recipe of Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms & Peas in a Light Cream Sauce was not good enough to share with you. You know, my recipes have to be superlative and mostly easy and healthy in order to share with you. Those are my requirements.
It made the grade!
Then I took the leftovers back to my son, when returning my adorable, smart, entertaining and beautiful grandson. (I just had to get that in there as my son won’t let me mention his name or show his picture on social media – so there you go – I am reduced to adjectives.) My son had some of the leftovers and said, “Mom, that dish was really, really good!! The mushrooms were meaty (Porcini are really meaty – in fact, just like meat!) and I don’t know why you didn’t like it. Do you have Coronavirus? You know it affects your taste buds.”
Well of course I do not have the Coronavirus and meaty was what I was looking for in the mushrooms but I guess it’s all relative. I knew what you could get with Porcini and these didn’t live up to it in my book but hey, my son (the oldest – you knew) is a pretty harsh critic and if he says it was delicious, even as a warmed up leftover, you can bet this is delicious.
Porcini in Arezzo
Along with the memory of making this dish in Italy, is the actual buying of the Porcini at the market in Arezzo on Saturday mornings. Oh how I loved that market! Everything was so fresh and beautiful and amazing. I would meet my friend Cristina and immediately go to this one Porchetta stand and get a warm Porchetta sandwich to eat at 10 am in the morning. I did not care about the garlic at that hour. The sandwich was heaven. Cristina thought I was crazy.
But I digress. The Porcini man was this big burly guy who would shout out Porcini, Porcini, Porcini and I would come to buy and pick several, (you have to buy whatever you touch – way before Coronavirus), and then he would weigh them and charge me and then always put a few extra in my bag, a little gruffly. But you could tell, he was a teddy bear deep down inside with his bearish voice and rough hands.
An Americana in Italy…
True, I was the token Americana in this small town.
I once asked my friend Tizianna, “So, do I really stand out? Do I not look Italian?”
“No Mary, you do not look Italian,” replied Tizianna.
I was disappointed. I thought I blended in more.
But no. This (supposedly) 100% Polish girl did not look Italian.
So now, I feel compelled to share this recipe with you and I hope you love it and I hope that someday, you’ll also get to make it with fresh Porcini mushrooms.
Obviously, this is a vegetarian dish and the idea was to make a dish tasting meaty enough without it having meat, as I think it would be healthier for all of us and the planet, if we cut down on our meat consumption.
So please give it a go, and don’t forget to add LOVE when making it. It’s quick and easy and really very delicious.
PASTA WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS & PEAS IN A LIGHT CREAM SAUCE – serves 4
½ lb. pasta, such as strozzapreti, conchiglie, or small ziti
8 large Shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel, stems trimmed of dirt, removed from caps & finely minced; caps sliced into 4 or 5 slices each
1 shallot, thinly sliced with a hand mandoline
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 cups frozen baby peas
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
¼ cup of heavy cream, divided
½ cup pasta water
Bring a large pot of water to boil. After it boils, add a generous tablespoon of coarse sea salt, or enough so that it tastes like the ocean. Bring to a rolling boil again, then add your pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the lesser amount on the package. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
Put the frozen peas in a strainer and run cold water over them. Gently break up any frozen clumps. Let them continue to drain while you work on the rest of the dish.
Heat the EVOO with the butter and sauté the sliced shallots and mushroom stems on medium-high heat. After the butter subsides, move the minced shallots and stems to the sides of the skillet and add the mushroom cap slices, spreading them out evenly in the pan. Lower the heat to medium and do not touch them for 5 minutes. Then flip them over to brown the other side and cook until tender and lightly browned, about 3 more minutes.
Add 2 Tbs. heavy cream. Add the cooked pasta, the Parmigiano, and ½ cup of the pasta water. Stir thoroughly. Add the drained peas, stirring and finish cooking the pasta until al dente. If you need more pasta water, add it. This will take 1 – 3 minutes, depending on how your pasta was cooked in the beginning.
Finish with heavy cream and LOVE
Finish the dish with the 2 more Tbs, of heavy cream stirred in. Add fresh ground pepper and taste for salt – it probably will not need salt if you salted your pasta water properly and the Parmigiano Reggiano is also salty. Stir to combine completely. Add your LOVE.
Serve in warmed bowls and enjoy!!