Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom & Truffle Sauce

There’s something deeply satisfying about making your own pasta, like walking down an ancient path of one of the world's eternal foods. A time honoured tradition dating back thousands of years, making fresh pasta is to witness the amazing transformation of blending flour and egg into dough, and the silky touch as it becomes smoother and smoother — it's a sensual delight! And the possibilities are endless.

Salsa Tartufata — Summer Truffle Cream Sauce

Italians have always had a love affair with mushrooms, which is no surprise. Mushrooms go extremely well with pasta, the rich earthy flavours a perfect complement to sauces, which vary from city to city and region to region. Truffle hunting is a popular pastime in Tuscany and Umbria, and in the summer months, white truffles are gathered to make Salsa Tartufata — Summer Truffle Cream Sauce — which is made with Italian black truffles combined with countryside mushrooms and black olives, cooked in olive oil with a touch of garlic and lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. A wonderfully aromatic and decadent condiment, I picked up two bottles of this marinated fragrant funghi at Antica Drogheria Manganelli in Sienna, the last time we were in Italy.

Antica Drogheria Manganelli in Sienna

With the jar of Salsa Tartufata, a pound of wild mushrooms, and Mario Batali's recipe for Tagliatelle al Sugo di Funghi from his James Beard award-winning cookbook, Molto Italiano: Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home, dinner plans were definitely underway.

Mario Batali's award-winning cookbook - 'Molto Italiano'

I'm an ardent fan of wild mushrooms but was surprised with Batali's recipe for Sugo di Funghi that called for finely chopping all of the lovely shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms that we just bought from the market, then braising them in tomato sauce and red wine. I shouldn't have doubted the big guy – the sauce was wonderfully aromatic and full of flavour. More so when two big dollops of the Salsa Tartufata went into the sugo. Heavenly.

Wild mushroom sauce made with shiitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms 
and two heaping spoonfuls of fragrant Salsa Tartufata

The next step was much easier — making homemade fettuccine with our treasured Marcato pasta machine. Using our successful pasta dough recipe from the evening before, we fed the sheets of pasta through progressively thinner settings up to #5 which provided the desired thickness of 1/16-inch, perfect for the fettuccine. Using the appropriate cutter attachment on the machine, the sheets were cut into 1/4-inch strips and then sprinkled lightly with flour, and allowed to relax while we waited for the water to come to a boil.

Making homemade fettuccine with our Marcato Pasta machine

Homemade fettuccine sprinkled with a little flour to stop it from sticking together

Popped into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, and presto! 

In an age where time is money, taking the time to make homemade pasta and sauce in one evening seems like a luxury. But it's actually not very difficult nor does it take much time, and the emotional satisfaction of making fresh taggliatelle, fettuccine or ravioli — that's next! — with your own hands, is enough to put a smile on anyone's face.

Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom & Truffle Sauce
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 oz wild mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped (shiitake, cremini, etc)
2 tbsp Salsa Tartufata (minced truffles)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pecorino cheese, for grating
1 1/2 lb homemade pasta dough, cut into fettuccine

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add onion and cook until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wild mushrooms and cook until they've given off most of their moisture, about 8-10 minutes. Add the wine, tomato sauce, butter, Salsa Tartufata and salt & pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the mixture becomes the consistency of a thick sauce, about 5 more minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil, and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook the pasta until tender, 1-2 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the mushroom sauce, tossing over high heat for a one minute to coat the pasta. Divide the pasta evenly among four warmed bowls, grate Pecorino over top and serve immediately.