Mushroom Lover Pesto
If you love mushrooms like I do this is the pesto for you! The feeling of autumn is embodied in its bold flavours and warm colours. Porcini, Pleurotus, Shiitake and, of course, Truffles, you name it. These wild gifts of nature are a perfect source of protein and they each have a unique taste, texture and colour.
Their earthy shades invite me into their mythical, magical powers, taking me back to old fairytales filled with gravures of giant brown portobellos, their meaty, protein filled bodies making them a meal on their own.
Of course, in order to satisfy my mushroom obsession, I rely upon our neighbourhood grocer who always has a nice selection of different types. Sometimes I rely on my friends that never miss the opportunity to collect mushrooms at the secret spots they have discovered in forests around Greece. They won’t share their map but they are more than happy to share their harvest!
You can prepare anything you can imagine with these wild, forest spirits:
Mushroom soup, grilled mushrooms, invigorating salads, thick sauces and stews. It is great to dry them, bake them, slice them in pies, anything that can be done they can handle with great poise.
And, at times when there is an abundance of mushrooms, you can make this pesto, a perfect way to enjoy pasta… For me, it is just a lifesaver on those last minute, impromptu pasta dinners aux deux!
Of course, you shouldn’t limit this treasure to just pasta. You can let these wildflowers free and try them in anything, as a flavour enhancer, a cheese companion, a solo spread-and-eat little meal, a topping, a… I just can’t stop.
Mushroom Lover Pesto
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
300 g fresh mushrooms; (a variety) finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon medium-dry sherry (optional)
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
½ cup fresh parsley leaves; packed down, washed well and spun dry
500 g penne rigate (ridged penne) or other tubular pasta
1. For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Mushroom mixture: Meanwhile, in a medium, non-stick, frying pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a moderately high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the mushrooms and sauté together with Worcestershire sauce, sherry, salt and pepper (to taste), stirring, until the liquid which is given off by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
3. Garlic paste: Mince and mashed the garlic cloves to a paste, adding a ¼ teaspoon of salt.
4. Pesto: Purée the mushroom mixture (preferably in a food processor) with the garlic paste, pine nuts, Pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the parsley and blend until the parsley is very finely chopped.
5. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of the hot cooking water.
6. In a large bowl whisk together the pesto and ⅔ cup of the reserved (and still hot) cooking water. Add the pasta and toss well, thinning pesto, if necessary, with remaining hot cooking water.
Serves 4 to 6
Note: Pesto keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week — even out the surface of the pesto, cover with a layer of olive oil, and chill.
Total time 45 minutes