Archive for May, 2012

Sometimes it seems that we as a country are  talking about food in the wrong way. I mean, people who are pretentious about food are pretentious about everything they claim to care about, but because food and cooking are such an important part of my life, I take it personally when the wrong people are doing the talking.  They make sacred things seem cheap and expensive all at once and I hate it. (I also feel that way when the Pope talks about God, but that’s another matter entirely.)

I say that because so many self proclaimed foodies strike me as people who are totally new to the eating process, as if they were gnawing on sugar covered cardboard for the first two decades of their lives and are just now noticing that the kids they picked on for having pasta with garlicky pesto (as opposed to Twinkies) for lunch might have been onto something.

(I carried a LOT of emotional baggage, in addition to “weird” lunches, around in my tin Holly Hobbie lunchbox with the matching thermos.)

The truth is, I am in love with cooking for more than just the food. I like watching my hands cut up potatoes for the soup just above the pot, exactly the way I saw my aunt do it. I love remembering the voice of my great-grandmother reminding her daughter to add the tomatoes before she burned the garlic.  And when I try something new, I can HEAR  Nonna tenderly urging me on in her beautiful accent: “You do you own way, Alessandra.  You know how to do.” I know that food keeps us alive in more ways than one, and when good, simple food is made to seem exclusive, like something to show off rather than to share……no one is truly satisfied.

So if you be not of the house of  Twinkie, feel free to read on and let me know how the recipes work out for you if you decide to try one. Here’s my recipe for the pasta pictured above:

Pappardelle with Mushrooms and Carrots


1 Star porcini bouillon cube (avail at some Italian markets and online, see picture and note below)

1.5 boxes of pappardelle

1 container of small portobello mushrooms, sliced

some white wine

3 carrots, sliced into skinny match sticks

1 Tbsp flour

1-2 Tbsp butter, softened

a handful of cherry tomatoes


  1. Put the pasta water on to boil.
  2. In a 4 cup liquid measuring cup (or small, deep bowl), drop in the bouillon cube and cover with a cup and a half of hot water.
  3. Brown the mushrooms in a skillet (with some butter and olive oil), then add some wine to the skillet and let it cook off. Then add everything to the measuring cup and let it sit and get all friendly with the bouillon.
  4.  In the same skillet, add some more olive oil if need be and saute the carrots until they are golden and soft.
  5. Add the mushrooms and broth to the skillet and cover while you mash together the butter and the flour in a little bowl with a fork.
  6. Stir the butter/flour into the mushrooms to thicken. Bring to a boil and keep stirring until everything has melded together.  Lower the temperature and cover while you cook the pasta.
  7.  Take the pasta out 1 minute before it is ready and let it cook the rest of the way in the skillet with the sauce.
  8. Halve and toss in the tomatoes and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano.

Here’s the deal with these: they are good. They add something almost indescribable to your food.  I always make my own broth with porcini mushrooms for risotto, but it would take FOREVER to get the broth this concentrated to use in a quick sauce like this. They make this super simple, meatless dish taste incredible; however, they are hard to find.  Only some stores have them because people must not ask for them.  That’s where you come in:  HOUND your local Italian market so that they (and eventually regular supermarkets) will start selling them!

Personal note: my grandmother used to buy them by the case and bring them back to the states in her suitcase.  It was hilarious.  A suitcase of American cigarettes for the trip over, bullion on the way back. What a combo of flavors!


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