Rioja Recipe: Pasta with Porcini

While fresh porcini mushrooms can be painfully expensive, dried porcini are extremely affordable and lend a deep, earthy quality that acts as a wonderful foundation. This dish is particularly good at bridging the gap between winter and spring--it is hearty and comforting enough to ward off the last chill of winter while also celebrating the bounty of mushrooms that come with the spring rains.

Note: A host of fresh mushrooms work well in this dish: common button mushrooms, cremini, portabella, oyster or chanterelle, to name a few. Avoid mushrooms like shiitake or morels, which would compete with the flavor of the porcini.

Serves: 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/4 cup cream
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 tablespoons butter
3 fresh sage leaves
2 cups fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 lb. rigatoni
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Salt, to taste

1. In medium pot add porcini and cover with hot water. Let sit at least one hour. Remove porcini from liquid and set aside. Over medium high heat reduce porcini liquid by half.
2. While liquid is reducing, add 1 tablespoon of butter to medium pan. Add in onion, sage, and a pinch of salt. Stirring occasionally, sauté onion over low heat until soft (about 8 minutes). Set aside.
3. In large frying pan or skillet add remaining butter and brown fresh mushrooms in small batches--avoid overcrowding the pan or the mushrooms will not brown. Repeat with reserved porcini.
4. Add reduced porcini liquid, cream, onion/sage mixture and mushrooms together in large skillet. Simmer over low heat and taste for salt.
5. Bring pasta water to boil in large pot, remembering to salt the water well. When water has reached a rolling boil, add pasta and cook until al dente according to manufacturer's instructions (generally 8-10 minutes). Drain pasta, add to skillet and toss with mushroom sauce. Garnish with parmigiano reggiano and serve immediately!

Pairing: the earthiness of this dish would go particularly well with a Rioja Crianza or Reserva. Enjoy!

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