Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fettuccine with fresh porcini mushrooms and crème fraîche

The best type of dinner is the one I can prepare quickly and not in the sense that I want to get it over with, even though sometimes that is the case, let’s not kid ourselves, but in the sense that there’s a certain satisfaction in cooking and eating something that’s special in less than half an hour.

I love this kind of meals during a busy workday when my energy levels are low and I can’t possibly bring myself to cook anything that requires too much of my attention or time, or on a Sunday when S and I have the whole day to ourselves and I don’t wish to spend too much time in the kitchen but rather at the dinner table with a glass of wine, some beautiful food and my partner’s company.

This is how this creamy fettuccine dish was created last Sunday; with the glorious porcini mushrooms, the kings of the mushrooms, crème fraîche and parmesan, shallots and garlic and some semi-sweet wine.

The earthy, nutty aromas that emanated from the pan while I was sautéing the porcini, tricked me into thinking I was cooking some sort of meat rather than mushrooms and led me to the realization that if I could have fresh porcini on a regular basis, I would consider becoming a vegetarian. Perhaps.

The crème fraîche added acidity to the dish, without masking the umami flavor of the mushrooms, whereas the salty parmesan took away the sharp edge from the crème fraîche, and the woody thyme added freshness. With a glass of semi-sweet white wine, it was a pretty special, and quick, Sunday meal.

PS. Last night I watched this movie and it was sweet and light and full of marvelous food, aromas and flavors. You have to watch it!

Fettuccine with fresh porcini mushrooms and crème fraîche

If you can’t find fresh porcini, use fresh chanterelles or girolles or any other wild mushrooms you can find.

Don’t wash or rinse the mushrooms because they will soak up all the water and lose their flavor; just scrub them lightly with a soft brush all over to get rid of the dirt. There are special mushroom brushes that you can use, but if you don’t have one, you can use a very soft, unused toothbrush.

You don’t want to cook the porcini to oblivion because you want them to retain that springy and delicate texture. Their meaty yet subtle flavor will shine through but you mustn’t overwhelm them with too many ingredients. You want to complement their flavor not overpower it.

Yield: enough for 2 hungry people

250-300 g dried fettuccine
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
200 g fresh porcini mushrooms, brushed and sliced thickly lengthwise
1 garlic clove, minced
100 ml semi-sweet white wine
150 g crème fraîche, full-fat
2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, grated

Special equipment: colander, mushroom brush (optional), cheese grater

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil over high heat and add the fettuccine. Cook until al dente (firm but not very hard) or cook to your liking. Reserve about 60 ml (¼ cup) of the pasta water and drain the fettuccine in a colander (but don’t shake the pasta), discarding the rest of the water.

While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large, wide sauté pan (one that will fit the pasta as well) over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until they become translucent and very soft. Empty shallots and oil into a bowl, wipe the pan with some kitchen paper and heat the pan again over medium-high heat.
Lay the porcini in one layer in the pan and dry them out i.e. cook them until they release their juices and the juice evaporates, for a few minutes on each side, being careful not to burn them; moderate the heat so it’s not too high.

Season the porcini with salt and black pepper, add the garlic and 1 Tbsp olive oil and continue to fry on medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Return shallots and oil to the pan and mix well. Then deglaze with the wine. Oh the aroma! Scrape any bits that have stuck to the pan, that’s the good stuff!

Add the crème fraîche and some fresh thyme leaves, stir gently and leave to incorporate into the sauce over low heat. Add a little pasta water to thin the sauce out a bit if it’s too thick and add one last Tbsp of olive oil.

When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan and mix with the sauce.
Sprinkle with some more black pepper, the rest of the fresh thyme leaves, lots of grated parmesan and serve immediately.


  1. I, too, have thought I could be vegetarian if porcini were available easily and year-round! It is one of the reasons we travel to Italy in the fall - so we make sure we are overlapping with porcini season! Your dish looks exquisite and I, too, love making a meal like this in just a few minutes. Simple and elegant doesn't need all day to prepare! As always, your photos are inspirational...

    I have yet to see the One Hundred Foot Journey but I can't wait! Glad to know you enjoyed it. Have you seen the Lunchbox? xo, David

    1. No, I haven't seen the Lunchbox. I will look it up! Thanks for the suggestion and I'm glad you like the dish :)

  2. This looks so delicious I just cannot tell you how much. It is supper time here in Nashville and I am a hungry and was going to settle for a simple steak salad with parmesan croutons until I saw this very edible post of yours.
    I must attempt this and try to at least come close. My mouth is watering.....and yes I have seen this movie and it is so sweet and wonderful.

    1. Your meal sounds good! If you do try this one, I'd love to know how it turned out :) Thanks Teresa!

  3. This is a beautiful little pasta dish. Every ingredient was chosen with care to yield the most perfect results. Great tip on the mushrooms, too!

  4. Pasta and mushrooms might be one of my favorite week night dinners: easy, tasty and a white canvas for all we decide to add :)

  5. I don't have porcini available where I live, but I substituted the same quantity of shiitake mushrooms and it was delicious! Worked perfectly exactly as written, and fed two with leftovers to fight about. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks Julie! The shiitake sounds delicious, I love their flavor. So glad you enjoyed it!