Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Pasta with Mushrooms

Oh, it has been quite the travel year for your humble blogger. Which you may have noticed, especially if you have followed my Wordless Wednesday posts for the last few months.
Lovely places all, but at the top of the list has to be Venice. There is something about Venice that I found so appealing, almost magical. Maybe that is why I have so many happy food memories from a rather brief stay there. Maybe eating by the side of a canal, sipping some wine, watching the boats pass back and forth, that makes everything taste better than it would elsewhere.

Or maybe the food is just really good there.

One dish that stuck in my memory was a pasta with mushrooms that I had our last evening in the city. Nice mushrooms in a creamy sauce with a perfectly cooked al dente pasta. It was a first course, followed by some veal with asparagus. was a tasty night.
So since I have been back, I have looked around for a recipe to try and duplicate it, without much success. Until I happened upon this recipe from my dear friends (OK, it is a one sided friendship) at America's Test Kitchen. Not too complex, yet with interesting flavors. So, I had to give it a try and see if it would live up to Venice.

Pasta with Mushrooms, Pancetta, and Sage

Serves 4 as main course, 6 to 8 as side dish.

Why this recipe works: For a weeknight pasta and mushrooms recipe with a woodsy, full flavor, we used a combination of mushrooms—cremini for their rich, meaty nature and shiitake for their hearty flavor and chewy texture. Cooking the mushrooms with salt released their juices and enhanced browning. We finished our mushroom pasta recipe by adding garlic, shallots, and sage to round out the flavors in a simple sauce of chicken broth, heavy cream, and lemon juice. 

So that the sauce and pasta finish cooking at the same time, drop the pasta into boiling water after adding the cremini to the skillet.


   4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

   2 tablespoons olive oil

   1 pound farfalle pasta, or campanelle

   3–4 large shallots , chopped fine (about 1 cup)

   3medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)

   10 ounces shiitake mushrooms , stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick

   10 ounces cremini mushrooms , wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick

   1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves , plus 1 additional teaspoon

   1 1/4cups chicken broth

   1/2 cup heavy cream

   1 tablespoon lemon juice from one lemon

   Ground black pepper

   2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

   2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


1.    Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in stockpot; add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until just shy of al dente. Drain and return pasta to stockpot.

2.    Meanwhile, cook pancetta in 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper-towel lined plate. Add shallots to fat remaining in skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high; add shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add cremini mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in sage and cook 30 seconds. Transfer mushrooms to bowl. Add broth to skillet and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits; off heat, stir in cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
        3. Add mushrooms, pancetta, broth mixture, cheese, and parsley to pasta in stockpot. Toss over                 medium-low heat until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes; serve immediately.

Was it as good? Well, it was very darn good and pretty fast and easy. Not the most inexpensive recipe because those mushrooms can be a bit expensive at my local supermarket, but I do love mushrooms!
And while the original Venice dish did not have pancetta as far as I can remember, I am of the opinion that almost every recipe can only be made better with the addition of a crispy pork product.
Also while the original pasta was fettuccine, I rather like the cute little campanelle, not a shape I was familiar with. Sage is a nice addition too, again not in the Venice dish that I noticed.

But I missed the white tablecloths, the wandering musicians and the canal with all those boats.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. I should have waited to read this until after I ate breakfast, lol. Now, my cereal and yogurt seems especially blah...

    How nice that you have such a wonderful memory associated with this dish :)

  2. Often when I make pasta there will be mushrooms involved. I think it is one of the best ingredients you can add to a pasta dish :)

  3. I too love mushrooms with my pasta. Food is such a huge part of why I love to travel. I'm so glad you found a recipe that -- if if not the same -- takes you back to Venice.

  4. I too am all in favor of adding mushrooms, cream, and cheese to pasta! And boats!

  5. Anything eaten by a canal while watching boats must take better than normal. This sounds like a very tasty pasta dish.

  6. I agree with Kaye - just the fact that you were eating it in Italy made it taste that much better. Your dish looks delicious, but I'd probably leave the mushrooms out.

  7. The pasta sounds delicious - as does the trip. You're fortunate to have had that opportunity. Look forward to more of your food memories of Italy.

  8. Mushrooms don't like me so I keep them to a minimum. However, if I were sitting along a canal in Italy, I probably wouldn't care. The pictures are beautiful.

  9. Do you know that in February Dolce Bellezza and another blogger are going to offer a Venice challenge. More here:

    I'm psyched!

    And 'al dente' pasta is the secret, isn't it?!

  10. This has really fired my imagination and excitement, as I am planning a trip to Venice next Spring to celebrate my special birthday. I’ll be looking out for this dish!

  11. I agree about fried pork products making everything taste better! I have a friend who is going to Italy next month and I am so jealous.

  12. I love pasta and mushrooms too- a perfect combination, especially with a good slurp of cream.

  13. Venice, funghi, pasta, pancetta....what's not to love?



please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!