May 9, 2011

Marcella Hazan's Porcini-Style Shiitake Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Pin It Follow Us for More

Since we started our food blogging adventure a few months ago and began to more deeply delve into the world of cooking, Marcella Hazan's name has come up more and more frequently. Embarrassingly, we must admit that prior to now we hadn't heard of her. We really got started by way of Mario Batali's recipes, but apparently Marcella is the Julia Child of Italian cooking in America.

Wait...where's the meat???
A few weeks ago we ordered one of her cookbooks, Marcella Cucina, on Amazon. Apparently it's no longer in print, so we grabbed a used edition for just $4.00. Our initial response to the book was criticism about the dearth of photos. As we mentioned before, we're hesitant to make something without a picture to guide us (part of the inspiration for this blog!). That said, her reputation was quite strong, so we found an easy recipe and gave it a shot. The result? Inspiration.

Making the Dish
What You'll Need

3/4 pounds fresh white button mushrooms
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese

A cursory look through the recipe and ingredients list left us wondering whether or not this could actually be that good. It's basically just a ton of mushrooms, salt, pepper, butter, and cream, and that's the sauce. That said, the technique that Marcella advises turns these ordinary ingredients into something flavorful and extraordinary.

Sliced mushrooms, ready to go.
Start by slicing up the mushrooms. You'll be using a lot of mushrooms, so this will take a while. This recipe calls for a combination of 3/4 lb of white button mushrooms and 1/2 lb of fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly. Rinse them thoroughly, and then slice vertically. To prepare the shiitake mushrooms, remove the stem from the caps since they are tough and not very flavorful.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add olive oil and a half cup of onion, chopped in a medium dice. Cook until the onion is soft and just starting to brown, and then add two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Let it cook until it starts to exude its savory aroma.

Adding the mushrooms and parsley to the sauté pan.

After the garlic is cooked, add in the fresh chopped parsley and all of the mushrooms. Give them a stir so they're all coated, and then add salt. As Marcella advises - "do not be shy"! We added about three tablespoons of kosher salt. Stir some more until everything is coated, then, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook it for about 10 minutes and you'll start to see the water come out of the mushrooms. This extra long cooking time really helps to bring out the flavor of the mushrooms.

Mushrooms have cooked down and are glistening with deliciousness.

Once the water from the mushrooms has evaporated, add in two tablespoons of butter and a half cup of heavy cream. We had initially thought that this was a take on an alfredo sauce, and to a certain extent it is, but given the amount of mushrooms, this really isn't enough butter or cream to make a real fluid sauce, it's mostly just about coating the mushrooms.

Butter, cream, mushrooms, and pepper, cooked down. 
Add in about a tablespoon of freshly ground pepper, stir thoroughly  and blast the heat on high, reducing the liquid to about half of it's initial amount and slightly caramelizing some of the mushrooms.

Adding the fettucine to the pan.
Finally, add your al dente fettuccine to the pan, a half cup of grated pecorino romano cheese, and toss until thoroughly coated.  Enjoy!

Tossing to coat.

The Wine
We gave this Red Velvet wine by Cupcake a try at the recommendation of our local liquor store. It's a red blend, similar to one of our favorites (Menage a Trois). It's easily drinkable, smooth, not too dry, and delicious. Oh, and it's under $10. If you see it, give it a try.

The Result

This dish is deceptively simple. The elongated cooking time on the mushrooms, with the touch of cream and butter, creates a complex, delicious, wonderful flavor. It's really quite impressive. As you've probably noticed, Bryan tends to prefer his pasta sauces with some sort of meat, but with the complexity of flavor that came through with this recipe, he wasn't left wanting for anything else!

Have a delicious vegetarian meal we should try out? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Click through for the ingredients list!


  1. This dish looks delicious, and as always, accompanied with great photographs!

    Duncan In Kuantan

  2. The dish looks great...I remember the first time I used shiitake for risotto. :D

    I've got to find time to make these dishes now....

  3. Thanks Duncan! We're glad you like the photos :)

  4. egads! you actually added 3 TABLESPOONS of kosher salt? assuming you used the entire sauce on a single pound of pasta, 3 tablespoons of kosher salt would have rendered it INEDIBLE.

    1. Good catch Prince. That should be teaspoons. Sorry!


We love getting comments, thank you so much for taking the time to leave us your thoughts!

Spread the Love