This dish was too good to be this easy, and I made it up on the spot. Here, we travel back to Emilia-Romagna, where sauces enriched with local fare, including everything from dairy to produce and pork and back, thicken dishes, steeling the region’s residents against the February chill.
What’s quite nice is that this dish gives its chef the ability to thicken to his or her own desire. Simply keep adding cream (and a pinch of sherry) and reducing until content.
With that in mind, let’s remember that, as the capitol city of the Emilia-Romagna is Bologna, which carries the nickname “la grassa,” or, “the fat one,” one must apply his or her cream judiciously. Also, if you like, thin sliced lard has a place in this dish if the chef likes, as it can be draped over the completed dish as an option. Oh dear, wake me up when its summer.
But I digress. Shall we begin?
FUNGHI: Take about a pound of button mushrooms or Baby Bellas, and quarter them. Place the quartered mushrooms in a large sautée pan over medium-high heat with two (2) tbsp. of olive oil and let ‘em sizzle.
SHALLOTS: While the funghi are warming up, roughly chop one (1) or two (2) shallots depending on size and your taste. Add the chopped shallots to the pan.
GARLIC: Roughly chop one (1) clove of garlic. Add it to the pan. Let the mixture sizzle until the shallots are lightly browning yet still pert.
HERBS: Finely chop about ten (10) leaves of fresh sage and an equal amount of fresh thyme.
CREMA: Bring the heat down to medium and add about three (3) tbsp. of heavy cream, pouring the cream over the mixture for an even distribution. As hard as it may be, let it sit. Wait for the cream to begin to bubble evenly around the pan, then stir and repeat.
AMONTILLADO: Poe fans unite! You can usually find a respectable Amontillado at any decent local wine shop. Pictured at right is a brand called Alvear’s that’s reasonable and fairly easy to find. If you’re feeling lazy, any dry sherry will do. Pour yourself and apértif then add a 1/2 cup evenly over the entire pan. Stir to integrate.
PASTA: Any long, somewhat thin pasta, that can be twirled onto your plate will do nicely in this dish, from linguine to fettucini and beyond. I used a nice Tripolini from Colavita that i got at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in Pittsburgh. Of course, if you can manage fresh pasta that’s even better. If cooking for two (2), drop about a 1/2 lb. of pasta into boiling, well-salted water, and cook until al dente.
GLUTTONY: At this point, most discerning chefs will ask themselves, “Do I need more cream?” And more often than not, the answer is yes. Pour more crema over the mixture, making sure that you have enough time to reduce properly. Add sherry proportionally, gently folding the mixture over itself to ensure proper absorption and reduction.
FINALE: When al dente, drain your pasta well and drop into the sautée pan, stirring with tongs to integrate sauce and pasta. Twirl your pasta onto plates, then grate fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano over your dish and add your remaining herbs.
PROSCIUTTO: If you like, take very thin slices Prosciutto or Lardo, and drape over the pasta while hot. If entertaining for friends, this will be the jaw dropper. A little bit of lard really takes this already rich dish to a new level.
Enjoy with a well-balanced, southern European red of your choosing. We had a 75/25 Temperanillo-Granache blend that stood up nicely in its bout with the savory Funghi e tripolini in crema d’Amontillado.
For this endeavor you will require:
1 lb. mushrooms – Baby Bella or Cremini will do nicely.
1 good sized shallot (2 if they’re small ones)
1 clove garlic
Small amounts of fresh sage and thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound of a good long pasta
1 bottle, vino rosso
Prosciutto di Parma or Lardo – very thinly sliced