We celebrated a friend's birthday the other night at one of my favorite recent additions to the Seattle restaurant scene, a cozy little trattoria called Cascina Spinasse. Four hours later, after multiple courses and wines—and a midnight votive incident that luckily didn't torch the place—we stumbled home. But the next day I just had to call the restaurant to ask them about their porcini pasta. Amazingly, the chef answered the phone and gave me step-by-step instructions.
In the tradition of typical Piedmontese food, the dish is simple yet flavorful, more than the sum of its parts. We made it at home that night and I'm happy to say the re-creation did the original proud. You don't need gobs of porcini to make this pasta—a half-pound is more than enough for two, and you can get by with a quarter-pound.
Martha liked it because no cream was involved. Fresh pasta is essential. Every time I make my own pasta I vow to never go back to the industrial-made stuff. We decided on tagliolini because that felt like the right size to go with the finely chopped porcini. Two other important points: First, caramelize the porcini until lightly browned but don't overcook the mushrooms into hard little nuggets; and second, use the best chicken stock you can get (or make).
10 oz fresh pasta
1/2 lb fresh porcini (or less), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup or more chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 tbsp butter
small handful parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1. Saute cubed porcini over medium heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until caramelized. Remove from pan.
2. Saute onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Return porcini to pan and stir together. Deglaze with white wine, cooking until nearly evaporated.
3. Add chicken stock, a few splashes at a time, allowing sauce to cook down before adding more liquid. Adjust for seasoning.
4. Just before pasta is ready, add 2 tablespoons of butter to sauce. Toss pasta with sauce and parsley.
It's that easy. Spring porcini are mild flavored, much more so than their fall brethren. Caramelizing helps to concentrate the flavor and the wine-chicken stock reduction is savory without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the mushrooms. This will be a dish we go back to each year when the spring porcini are popping in the mountains.