Penne With Porcini and Red and Yellow Peppers

Penne ai Porcini e Peperoni

This is a recipe I found in a restaurant called Antonio Colonna in a miniscule little town outside of Rome called Labico. The door to the restaurant has no sign and looks more like the entrance to a private home than a restaurant. You ring the bell and are shown in to an elegant high ceilinged room with six tables. There is no menu and you are served a spectacular seven course meal which the chef has selected for that day. This dish was the pasta course on the day of our visit. In its original version it was made with fresh porcini. Fresh porcini are not that easy to come by so I’ve written the recipe two ways: using dried porcini together with cultivated mushrooms, and using fresh or frozen porcini if you can get them.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound fresh or thawed frozen porcini ½-inch diced or 1 ounce dried porcini
  • 4-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 branches fresh sage
  • 1 branch fresh rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh cremini or white mushrooms ½-inch diced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded, peeled and ½-inch diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded, peeled and ½-inch diced
  • 1 pound penne
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • cup parmigiano-reggiano, freshly grated
  • If you are using fresh or frozen porcini skip steps 1 and 3.

Method

  1. Put the dried porcini in a bowl, cover with water and soak for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves. Put them along with the sage, rosemary branches, and the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. When the garlic has browned on all sides remove it and the branches of fresh herbs.
  3. Lift the reconstituted dried porcini out of the water, squeezing the excess water back into the bowl; do not discard the water. Rinse the mushrooms under running water, then chop them coarsely. Add the soaked porcini to the pan. Pour the water they soaked in through a paper towel in a strainer into the skillet. Cook until all the water has evaporated.
  4. Add the fresh cremini, season with salt and pepper, and Sauté over high heat until the water they release has evaporated.
  5. If using fresh or frozen porcini add them now and cook over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
  6. While the mushrooms are cooking, Peel the peppers using a sawing motion with your peeler and remove the core, seeds, and pith.
  7. When the mushrooms are done, add the peppers, season them lightly with salt and continue cooking over medium high heat until they are tender and begin to brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. The sauce may be prepared several hours ahead of time up to this point but do not refrigerate.
  8. Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, cover, and place over high heat. When the water boils, add 2 tablespoons salt and the penne. Stir well and cook until al dente.
  9. When the pasta is almost ready reheat the sauce. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce, the butter and the parmesan cheese. Serve at once.

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