Tagliatelle ai Funghi Porcini e Nepitella
One of the idiosyncrasies of living in Italy is that many things are not terribly clear or well explained, but Italians seem to navigate this with ease and are apparently surprised when you ask for help. Things are done in a certain way, even if there isn’t really an explanation for it. So, no cappuccino after 10 am (and never ever after lunch) and no parmiggiano on funghi (despite adding to the complexity of the flavour). And so in the shops you occasionally find new ingredients, with no understanding of what they are: the only hint is that they are placed close to other ingredients that are familiar. In the summer you often find bags of pine-nuts next to big bunches of basil, which is obviously to make pesto – obvious only when someone points it out to you. Which brings us to the autumn, and the wonderful new flavours and colours it brings out: fig, pomegranate, apple, pumpkin, fennel and mushrooms, especially mushrooms. Really the most autumnal of foods, enjoyed in soups and risotto, which help you warm up on a cold evening.
The other day in our local supermarket we noticed a herb that we had never come across before, right next to the baskets full of porcini. Having learned our lesson, we just picked this Nepitella up: it’s there, it must have something to do with cooking and eating mushrooms. And so it turns out that Nepitella is a type of mint (calamint in English), which really feels like a combination of mint and oregano with also a hint of basil, it’s native to Tuscany and Umbria, autumnal, and brilliant with mushrooms.
In Italy you develop a network of trust with people – our fruttivendola will only sell us top quality fruit and vegetables, our butcher will always advise us well and serve us the best, our truffle man will always give us an honest price, and even the supermarket staff place things where they should be: a herb not amongst the herbs, but amongst the ingredients you will use them with.
For 4 people:
500 grams dry tagliatelle all’uovo
800 kg fresh Porcini mushrooms
2 stems of Nepitella
2 cloves of garlic, whole
2 dried chillies, cut in little pieces
A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped.
Which EVOO to use?
For this dish use Zefiro from Frantoio Fonte di Foiano to get the most out of the flavours.
1. Clean your mushrooms well, by brushing off any soil with a mushroom brush, or use a damp cloth and gently clean it. Be thorough, you don’t want soil kicking around in your plate. Then cut lengthwise in slices.
2. Put the water on for the pasta.
3. In a large frying pan, pour quite a bit of olive oil, heat gently and put the garlic to flavour the oil (until brown), then remove the garlic from the pan.
4. Put the chilly in the pan, swirl around the oil, then add the mushrooms and the nepitella leaves, turn from time to time for about 15 minutes, adding some water from the pasta or some white wine to build up the moist
5. Once your tagliatelle are ready, put in the pan with the mushrooms, add the parsley, toss and cook for 20 seconds, then serve, adding some olive oil on each plate.
6. (And if you want to add grated parmesan at this stage, just don’t do it in public!)