I love mushrooms, especially when they are cooked with lots of garlic. They are like little sponges that soak up any tasty flavor added to the pan you are cooking them in. Since living in Italy I have been fortunate enough to try many dishes with the flavorsome of porcini mushrooms. When in season, my neighbors go foraging for these little beauties and when they return, we exchange one over our fence for a bottle of red or a freshly baked cake. I love turning them into a risotto or simply cooking them with lots of garlic to serve as a bruschetta topped with fresh goats cheese.

Among the many ingredients I have learned to love is dried porcini mushrooms. They hold a very strong flavor and can be brought back to life in a minute by adding them to hot water. I add them to any mushroom dish to add a hit of earthy flavor. I like to use button mushrooms for their texture, and for what they lack in strong flavor I usually add dried porcini mushrooms.

The pasta recipe below is one that I came up with on a wintery night with only a few ingredients on hand. I use milk instead of cream for a lighter sauce, and plenty of pepper for a bit of heat. This recipe is easily adjustable to feed more or less people, I often use this quantity for 3 to 4 people. If you prepare this sauce in advance and it doesn’t look like it has enough liquid, add some more milk whilst you are heating it up.

Extra virgin Olive Oil
2 x dried porcini mushrooms (you can add more if you like a stronger flavor)
6 slices of pancetta, cut into pieces
2 x large pieces of garlic, crushed
Half a kilo of button mushrooms, quartered
2 x rosemary sprigs
1/ 2 milk
salt and pepper

Put the dried porcini mushrooms into a bowl with some hot water to soften. Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick fry pan, add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Remove the cooked pancetta and place on a paper towel. In the same pan, add a dash of olive oil and cook the garlic, making sure it doesn’t burn. Then, add the mushrooms and rosemary sprigs and sauté well, you want them to take on the taste of the garlic. Cook the mushrooms for about 10 minutes, adding oil if the pan dries out. While the mushrooms are cooking, remove the porcini mushrooms from the water and slice into small pieces and add to the pan.Turn the heat down and add the milk and cooked pancetta, simmer for two minutes until the liquid thickens. Finish with salt and lots of fresh black pepper. Fold though freshly cooked pasta (I use spaghetti) and serve next to a glass of red.