Pappardelle with a Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Autumn in Tuscany means pappardelle ai funghi e panna, a classic seasonal pasta dish with hearty mushrooms and cream sauce. Porcini are typically the mushroom of choice, found wild throughout the forests in Tuscany and prevalent after rainfall. Tourists and Italians alike flock to these areas to go mushroom hunting or to participate at many of the sagre, “festivals” that give homage to this prized ingredient.
Apart from fresh mushrooms, the key to making this dish sing is to make your own homemade pappardelle. Silky egg based pasta dough is rolled out and cut into long noodles around 1 inch wide. In Tuscany, Pappardelle are often served with mushrooms or a rich ragu made with wild boar meat (cinghiale).
Make the dough:
Attach the dough hook to the stand mixer and add the flour, salt and eggs. Mix on speed 1 for 3-5 minutes, stopping the stand mixer at least once to scrape down the sides. When the mixture comes together as a homogeneous ball, check to see if it’s the right consistency by pushing against the dough with your finger. If it leaves an imprint (like a ripe peach) and doesn’t stick to your finger, it’s ready. If the dough, however, is sticky turn the stand mixer back on and gradually add a little more flour, stopping every so often to check the consistency until it no longer sticks to your finger. If the dough doesn’t come together in a ball, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it does. (If you add too much just incorporate more flour until arriving at the consistency mentioned above.)
If you don’t have a stand mixer, make a well with the flour on a large workspace, add the salt and eggs. Use a fork beat the eggs and gradually push the flour towards the egg and beat all together until the mixture comes together in a single mass. Knead by hand until it’s homogeneous; about 10-15 minutes.
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Make the sauce:
In a large skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until soft and translucent; about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chopped mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until soft; 7-8 minutes. Pour in the cream, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and parsley and cook for 1 minute until the cream is slightly reduced. Remove from heat.
Make the pappardelle:
Attach the pasta roller accessory and sprinkle some flour on top. Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one and shape it into a flat rectangle and flour generously on top and bottom. Keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic wrap. Pass the rectangular shaped dough through the machine on speed 1 at 0 thickness setting. Fold the two ends towards the center then pass it through again. Repeat one more time so the edges are rectangular, then pass the dough through the roller reducing the thickness from number 0 to 5 each time. Keep the sheet and roller floured as you go. Generously flour a large wooden board and lay the pasta sheet on top. Repeat for the remaining dough.
If you are rolling out the dough with a rolling pin, roll it out on a lightly floured work space.
Lightly flour both sides with semolina and let the pasta sheets dry out for 5-10 minutes. Roll each side of the sheet towards the middle and cut 1 inch slices. Unravel the rolled dough so that the long ribbons lay out.
Cook the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Generously salt the water and taste it. It should taste salty like the sea.
Cook the pappardelle for 4-5 minutes then check one to see if it is ready. The pasta should be “al dente” or slightly firm. If it is not ready, continue to cook for 1 minute and check again. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Return the skillet with the mushroom sauce to cook on low heat. Add the cooked pasta to the mushroom sauce along with a tablespoon or two of pasta water. Heat until liquid has reduced and stir until well combined. Serve hot with more Parmigiano Reggiano if desired. Buon appetito!