Rich and evocative of the forest, Tuscan tagliatelle ai funghi (tagliatelle with mushrooms) is a typical regional dish from Tuscany. Often cooked with wild mushrooms foraged from the tree-covered areas on and around the rolling hills of this well-loved wine region, this dish is full of flavour and deeply satisfying. Chef Lapo Magni who grew up in Florence, Tuscany invites us into his kitchen to share his family recipe.
Foraging for and cooking with wild edible plants are imbued in the Italian genetic make-up. Hunting and gathering are time honoured past-times that are nothing unusual in Tuscany, an area rich in natural resources throughout the year. Plants such as wild asparagus, dandelion and chicory have found their way into the Tuscan kitchen and onto the table, but none are better loved for flavour and versatility than the umami flavoured mushroom.
Eatsplorer joined Italian chef Lapo Magni in his kitchen in Cape Town where he now lives and works, sharing his beloved Italian cuisine with hungry locals through chefs table experiences and the occasional cooking class.
“Mushrooms are an important ingredient in Tuscan cuisine”, Lapo says, whilst working the pasta dough to form a stretchy, glutenous ball, “We use it in pasta dishes, in sauces, on pizza and even to preserve”. He continues to tell us how his mom Elana, who was also a chef back in Florence and whose pasta recipe we are cooking today, used to put freshly picked mushrooms in a jar with some herbs and covered it with olive oil to preserve it for later use. ‘We waste nothing in our kitchen’, Lapo says proudly.
We roll out the pasta together until it is silky smooth, but not too thin, fold it loosely into a tube shape and cut with a sharp knife into tagliatelle-shaped ribbons. According to Lapo wasting foraged mushrooms on store-bought pasta is sinful. ‘You want the al dente ribbons to still have enough bite to be a good vehicle for the sauce’, says Lapo.
We make the Mushroom sauce with a mix of Porcini and other wild mushrooms freshly foraged by Gary Goldman, Cape Town’s well-known fungi expert. Gary ventures out every day during the mushroom season to forage and also takes groups out on foraging experiences, sharing his wealth of knowledge along the way.
Lapo tells us that while mushroom picking is allowed freely in some countries, you have to have a tesserino (license) for it in Italy, which helps to maintain sustainable harvesting. The conditions for obtaining the license differ from region to region, in some, you even have to pass a test, and in others, you can obtain it without any conditions. This restriction clearly demonstrates the Italian culture of respect for nature and food. ‘ If ever there was magic in our kitchen cupboard it is in a basket of mushrooms’ says Lapo. According to Lapo Tuscan tagliatelle with mushrooms is also perfectly delicious made with cultivated mushrooms, but even better if it is freshly foraged porcini, with the best variety growing under chestnut trees. No other ingredient has so much to offer in pure robust flavour. But it really does not matter, whether you like to forage your own mushrooms, cultivate them yourself, or simply pick some up from your local farmers market, the flavour mushrooms produce is the very essence of the forest floor and the perfect, rich foil for homemade tagliatelle.
‘You don’t need to add much’, Lapo says, ‘keep it simple’. He advises that all you need is a handful of mushrooms to fry in a pan with butter and garlic, but not too heavy on the garlic though, as the robust flavour of mushroom is what you’re after. ‘It’s a mistake to make a mushroom pasta sauce with only mushroom stock’, Lapo explains, sharing the special secrets of his mother’s recipe, ‘It needs some chicken stock in there, for the correct consistency and to complement the powerful woodsy flavour.’
Sitting together with Lapo at the dining table with a steaming bowl of Tuscan tagliatelle with mushrooms in front of us, it is clear to see Lapo is quite right, a substantial receptacle such as homemade pasta is just what your fungi magic needs. Something to lap up the sauces and transform a simple sauce into a gourmet delight.
Tagliatelle with mushrooms is elegant enough to eat as a first course but also robust enough to hold its own as a main. But however you choose to serve it, one thing is for sure, just a bite, and you are instantly transported to the rolling hills of Tuscany. Buon Appetito!
- 400g of flour
- 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- Dash of extra virgin olive oil
- Large pinch of salt
- Semolina (for dusting)
For the wild mushroom sauce:
- 30g of butter
- 800g of wild mushrooms, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, whole
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 100ml of tomato puree
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 50g of parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
To make the pasta:
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, and pour in the eggs and olive oil.
Use a fork to gradually stir in the flour until the mixture becomes a dough. As the mixture becomes dough you can use your hand to gradually mix in the remaining flour until you have a dough. Knead for about 10 minutes until it is firm and smooth and form it into a ball. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for 40min.
Roll out the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1 cm thick and will go through the widest setting of your pasta machine. Put it through twice, then fold it back in on itself, and repeat the process, cutting it in half when it becomes too long to handle. Work it through until you get to setting 3.
When the pasta has a good sheen to it, dust the dough with flour. Tagliatelle should be cut using a sharp knife, or the cutter on your pasta machine. Dust the tagliatelle with a mix of flour and semolina and hang to dry.
To make the sauce:
Heat olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the whole garlic and thyme until the garlic is a golden colour. Add your mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring 3 to 4 minutes or until softened.
Add tomato puree and toss mushrooms in the puree. Add the chicken stock, bring to boil. Simmer with the lid on for 10-15 minutes and then for another 5 min without the lid or until the liquid reduces by half.
While the sauce is cooking bring salted water to a boil in a large pasta pot. Add the fresh tagliatelle and cook until the pasta is al dente.
Drain then add to the sauce and cook for 1 min, add parmesan cheese and butter and serve with a generous grinding of black pepper.
IMPORTANT: Please inform yourself about the local laws, restrictions, and regulations and educate yourself about edible, non-edible and poisonous types of mushrooms before you start foraging this delicious ingredient in Italian forests (or at home, too!). Better yet, join experienced locals in mushroom or truffle foraging and book a foraging experience to show you the ropes.
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