I brought nearly a suitcase full of Italian goods back from my trip, including three bottles of olive oil, 2 bags of pasta, a bottle of Brunello, truffle salt, and my prized possession: porcini and white truffle paste. I have been fantasizing for weeks about how I would use my truffle paste, and who would be the lucky dinner guest to share it with me. After careful consideration, I decided that I would make fresh pappardelle with truffle cream sauce and roasted shiitake mushrooms for my good friend, Merryweather. She is also planning a trip to Italy this winter so it was the perfect opportunity to share all my delicious experiences with her.
Because we had a lot to catch up on, I stared off the evening with a little Spanish influence. We toasted with some glasses of Rosado and snacked on a bowl of padron peppers sautéed in olive oil and sea salt. Padron peppers are only in season for a short time during August, but they are so delicious and easy to cook: just heat 1-2 TB of olive oil in a large pan, then add the peppers and saute for 4 minutes, or until blistered; finish off with sea salt and toss to coat. This simple method allows you to highlight the flavors in the peppers, and it’s the traditional Spanish way of preparing them. These peppers are mild, but 1 in every 15 is spicy, and if you get a spicy pepper it’s good luck! Merryweather just happened to grab a spicy pepper when there were only a few left in the bowl, so we toasted to her good fortune.
Pappardelle with Truffle Cream Sauce (serves 2)
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
- 1 TB butter, room temperature
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 TB fresh thyme
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 leek, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 cup half-n-half or heavy whipping cream
- 12 oz fresh Pappardelle
- 2 TB truffle paste, cream or butter
- sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- freshly grated pecorino
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and place a roasting pan into the oven as it heats. Once heated, remove the roasting pan (using an oven mitt) and add the butter and garlic, mixing to combine into a paste. Add mushrooms and thyme and toss to coat. Cook for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep pan heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over a medium-high flame. Once hot but not smoking, add the leeks and shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add the cream and lower the heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add salt once it’s boiling. Cook the pasta for exactly three minutes, reserving about a cup of the pasta water, then remove from heat. Add the truffle paste to the cream sauce and stir to combine. Add some of the reserved pasta water to thicken the sauce, then use tongs to transfer the pasta to the sauce. Toss to coat, then add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and pecorino and toss again. Serve immediately in shallow pasta bowls.
Merryweather and I agreed that the pasta was rich yet savory, and the addition of the roasted mushrooms was perfectly juxtaposed against the creamy sauce and thick pasta. I think this pasta would go best with a nice Prosecco, but we were in the mood for red by the time we ate so I opted for the 2010 Bouchaine Estate Vineyard Terraces Pinot Noir. The wine possesses a nice combination of white pepper, spices and ripe fruit. It probably wasn’t the ideal wine to pair with our truffle pasta, but it was certainly delicious and we continued to drink it long after we finished our meal.
I still have half a jar of my truffle paste left! Any suggestions?