There are a few ubiquitous pastas (recipe link) in Italy that you’ll see on most menus regardless of season. We know about the big ones: carbonara, Bolognese, arrabbiata, Amatriciana, etc. Not so well known, but one whose consistent presence we noticed nonetheless, was a mushroom cream pasta preparation. Our first night in Rome in 2019, we ate at a restaurant a few blocks off the Piazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, and Sam had the tagliatelle ai funghi. That restaurant closed down, sadly, so we cannot properly attribute the inspiration, but we did notice different versions of creamy mushroom pasta on menus during subsequent trips. Each version just as satisfying as the last, with different regional variations on the same comforting theme.
This is a quick recipe with a delicious pay-off. Use dried porcini mushrooms because you’ll need the liquid as the base for the sauce. Once the porcini mushrooms have reconstituted, you can cook the sauce while the pasta is in the water. I used ricotta cheese because I enjoy the added texture, though you’re welcome to swap that for heavy cream to achieve a smoother pasta.
.5 lb dried tagliatelle (225g)
20g dried porcini mushroom
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 heaping tablespoons whole milk ricotta cheese (77g)
grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano
1---Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. When boiling, turn off the heat, add the dried porcini mushrooms to the water, cover the pot, and let sit for about an hour or until the mushoomrs have completely reconstituted. Save the porcini liquid.
2---Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling, heavily salt the water and add the tagliatelle.
3---In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and - when the oil becomes fragrant - add the shallot and allow to soften (about 4 minutes). Once softened, add the garlic and stir a few times to incorporate with the shallot and keep the garlic from burning. Then, remove the porcini mushrooms from the liquid and add them to the saute pan. Toss a few times with the aromatics, and then add about a cup of the reserved porcini liquid. Add the thyme and let the liquid reduce while the pasta finishes cooking.
4---When the tagliatelle are nearly finished, use a spider strainer or tongs to remove them from the pasta water and add to the saute pan. Toss vigorously to evenly incorporate. Let the pasta simmer in the broth for about a minute.
5---Turn off the heat on the saute pan and add the cheese. Stir and toss to incorporate the cheese with the sauce. Gauge the consistency of the sauce to your liking. If it’s too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water and continue to toss. Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.
6---Serve on a warm plate and garnish with parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano.