Religion factors prominently in Italian life. How could it not with Vatican City making its home in Rome? That religious fervor even extends to pasta. Today, we’re looking at another classic that does not fall short on folklore: Penne alla Boscaiola.
Carbonara was made by the coal miner’s wife. Pasta alla Buttera was made by the Cowboy’s wife and Boscaiola by the wood cutter’s wife. The name derives from “Bosco”, meaning woods, and Boscaiola is the wood cutter’s wife. As a result, despite household tweaks in recipes, the one constant must be mushrooms.
Penne alla Boscaiola
1 pound Penne pasta
1 large can San Marzano Tomatoes
1 pound fresh mushrooms (any you can find)
4 ounces dried porcini, reconstituted
6 slices slab bacon, cut into 1/4″ strips
1/2 sweet vidalia onion
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh oregano
Salt & Pepper
Set the dried porcini to re-constitute in hot water. In a pan large enough to hold the finished pasta, begin cooking the bacon. Once the bacon is cooked but still soft, remove to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and saute. Meanwhile, crush the San Marzano gently with your hands. Don’t completely crush them. You want the tomatoes to be chunky in a rustic sense.
Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the mushrooms, the oregano and the tomatoes to the pan. Check for seasoning and then return the bacon to the sauce. Let simmer 15-20 minutes before starting the pasta water. Reserve some of the pasta water in case the sauce becomes too tight.
When the pasta is almost finished cooking, check the sauce for seasoning and prepare to add the light cream. I estimate that I used 2-3 tablespoons. It doesn’t take much to have an impact. You’re looking to tint the sauce orange and add an ethereal level of body to the sauce.
Boscaiola starts appearing on the menus of Tuscan Trattoria in early Autumn when people begin foraging for fresh mushrooms. The woodsy, smoky aromas filling the kitchen while this sauce simmered recalled nights by the fire pit. I’ve made many classic pastas that my family enjoys but the aromas from this dish were amazing. Give it a try!
What to drink with this? It’s hard to imagine a Vino Rosso not pairing well with this. Rosso di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and any Sangiovese based red will be exceptional. We tried the recently reviewed Nozzole Gran Selezione and it was magnificent.