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Fusilli with portobello mushrooms and ham

This dish was quickly thrown together with our first portobello mushroom harvest. I sliced the mushrooms, sauteed them in some olive oil and butter with a shallot and minced garlic, added a little white wine and some pasta water, salt and pepper and that was it. But it still needed some umph, which is why I thought to add the ham. If I were making this vegetarian, I’d kick up the heat with more cracked black pepper.

I had only a couple of slices of prosciutto cotto in the fridge, which was plenty for just two people. Prosciutto cotto is a very delicate cooked ham and could be kind of hard to find depending on where you live. But you could substitute regular baked ham, or even prosciutto crudo if you like. Another option that would be delicious is to fry up a slice of pancetta or bacon and add that. There are lots of variations, but to me, turning out a tasty dish with what you’ve got on hand is important – not only because you don’t want to always be running to the store, but so that you learn to become resourceful and not waste anything either. It can lead to interesting combinations that you’d never have thought of otherwise.

I finished the dish off with a scattering of parsley and a dusting of freshly grated parmigiano cheese. Not bad for a quick meal, as my mother-in-law used to say.

For two people:

1/3 pound fusilli, or other pasta (or however much you eat)
about 3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. oil
2 T. butter
1/4 cup white wine
salt, pepper
2 slices prosciutto cotto, cut into bits
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top
minced parsley

Get the water boiling and throw in the pasta.
Saute the shallot and garlic for a couple of minutes in the olive oil and butter, then add the mushrooms and saute until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and cook for a few minutes on high heat to reduce a bit. Add a little pasta water too at this time, but only a few tablespoons or so. As you can see from the picture, this is not a dish that is swimming in sauce, but you should have enough for a light coating of liquid. Lower the heat to a slight simmer until the pasta is finished cooking.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pot with the mushrooms, stirring around in the sauce to coat the pasta. Remove from the heat and put into a serving dish. Add the ham, top with parsley and parmesan cheese and serve.

Habemus Fungus

We grew these!
At home.
In a cardboard box.

Yes, that’s right, these delightful portobellos popped up as little brown buttons a few days ago and quickly er…… mushroomed to these large beauties in a couple of days.

I ordered the mushroom kit as a Christmas gift to my husband and another one for my father. There were quite a few companies selling the kits via the internet, but I ordered mine from a company in California. Email me if you want specifics.

I got the mushroom gift idea when we were traveling through the Italian Abruzzo countryside last fall. There we were on a country road, tootling along (is that a word?) when I see a sign with an arrow that says “Fungaia” (mushroom growing place).

“Stop the car,” I shout. “Let’s go find the mushrooms.” Always up for a new eating or gardening discovery, my husband quickly turns the car around. We end up a few minutes later at the fungaia – a quanset hut with a sign out front instructing visitors to ring the bell for assistance. Which we did. A few minutes later, a very handsome young Italian man appears to show us inside – a vast space filled with what look like bales of hay and two different types of mushrooms sprouting all over them. After a tour of the fungaia and a brief stop at the shop next door, we leave with a basketful of fresh oyster mushrooms (pleurotis), and a jar of mushrooms preserved in olive oil to take back to the U.S. Worth the detour, wouldn’t you say?

So back to the kit… A few days after Christmas my husband followed the easy directions that came with the box. Only a few simple instructions and we were off and waiting. We would have had our first crop earlier, if only we hadn’t initially stored the box in a place that was a little too cool.

Fast forward a few days to the dining room – a warmer climate than the guest room – when the little buttons appeared. A few days later and we were ready to harvest our first crop. Which is just what I did earlier this week. The mushrooms are supposed to keep producing with two very large crops and then a tapering off to smaller harvests. When all the nutrients are exhausted, the fungi stop doing their thing and go to mushroom heaven, or a compost pit in our case.

In the meantime, I’m going to have fun turning these into some delightful eats. Look for a recipe to follow. That is, if you can peel your eyes off this good-looking Italian dude who works at the fungaia.