Paccheri with Tomato Sauce & Mushrooms or Paccheri alla Bascaiola brings with it thoughts of crisp Autumn days. Bascaiola translates to woodsman, evoking images of leaves, trees, fire wood and the harvesting of mushrooms at this time of year. Paccheri with Tomato Sauce & Mushrooms is a rich and flavorful dish requiring few ingredients and little time to prepare.
As with most regional Italian dishes, there are countless varieties of this pasta sauce; many of which include cream, peas, pancetta, and sausage. Some credit the original recipe to Tuscany, with a focus on porcini mushrooms. Pasta shapes vary as well and one can find recipes using spaghetti, pappardelle, pene, strozzapreti as well as many other shapes and sizes.
Paccheri has always been a favorite of mine and pairs well with the thickly sliced pieces of mushrooms and chunky marinara sauce. This is not a macaroni for the faint of heart, it is sizable allowing the sauce to fill the large tubular center opening. Typical of the Campania region, dried paccheri is also popular in Calabria.
My version of Pasta Boscaiola is unpretentious and straightforward: mushrooms, garlic, marinara sauce and some fresh parsley. The simplicity of preparations brings the best of ingredients forward to create a light yet intensely flavored pasta dish.
In lieu of fresh porcini mushrooms use shiitakes; they have a distinctively meaty taste that stands up well to both the pasta and tomato sauce. Clean the shiitake mushrooms as you would any other fresh mushroom, by gently rubbing away any dirt particles with a clean cotton cloth or paper towel. The stems of shiitake mushrooms are tough and fibrous, so reserve these for a broth or stock.
The trick to developing the necessary layers of flavors starts with browning the shiitakes with garlic and olive oil beforehand. A light caramelization of the mushrooms adds the intensity needed for the finished sauce.
The marinara sauce should be added to the pan that the mushrooms were prepared in to take advantage of any brown bits that resulted.
Paccheri with Tomato Sauce & Mushrooms or Paccheri alla Boscaiola although meatless is a rich and satisfying pasta which can easily be prepared when arriving home after a long day.
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- 1 pound of fresh shiitake mushrooms, free of blemishes
- 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into half
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 pound of dried commercial
paccheripasta, preferably imported Italian
- ½ recipe of marinara sauce it should be chunky in nature rather than smooth
- ⅓ cup minced Italian parsley leaves
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Gently wipe the mushrooms with a soft cotton towel or paper towel to rid them of any dirt; carefully remove the stems and reserve for stock. Thickly slice the mushroom caps into two or three segments each depending upon the size.
- Heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy duty skillet. Once the olive oil is hot, add the sliced garlic halves, allowing them to gently become golden. The garlic should be watched as to prevent it from burning, add the sliced mushroom caps and give the pan a good stir.
- Brown the mushroom caps until they develop a nice caramel color, leaving some brown bits at the bottom of the skillet. Once the mushrooms are brown, season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.
- Put a large pot of cold water on the stove and bring to a boil.
- Add the marinara sauce to the browned mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes
- Once the water has come to a strong boil, season with a handful of kosher salt and add the
paccheri. Give the pot a good stir and cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than suggested on the package.
- Drain immediately into the skillet with the mushroom tomato sauce and combine well over low heat until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Sprinkle with half of the parsley leaves and stir once again. If the mixture seems a little dry, loosen it up with a ladle of the pasta cooking water.
- Transfer to warmed pasta bowls and top with additional chopped parsley and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, serve immediately.