Sunday, May 19, 2013

Italian Pasta Classics - Pappardelle alla Boscaiola

Welcome to Neurotic Kitchen's newest feature - Italian Pasta Classics. Since we've shared quite a few of my favorite Traditional Pasta recipes, why not make it a regular thing?  A few examples -

Spaghetti all'Arrabiata

Pasta with Cauliflower

Aglio Olio e Peperoncino

and last but not least, my favorite,

Linguine & White Clam Sauce.

(For the entire NK Pasta Collection, check out our Recipe Index HERE.)

Today, I'd like to spotlight a really wonderful dish that I believe doesn't get nearly enough buzz - 

Pasta Boscaiola.

Boscaiola means "in the style of the Woodsman," There are many ways to make Boscaiola, and the traditional components are often disputed. There is, however, one key, non-negotiable ingredient in Boscaiola that everyone agrees on, and it is the one that best conjures the woodsy feeling of this dish, one of my all time favorite vegetables, Mushrooms. 

Italian Parsley and Mushrooms, Photo: NK
Generally, Boscaiola also includes Tomatoes. Some folks make it with a bit of Pancetta and even Peas. As you might imagine, this method is also very delicious. Still others insist that no Tomato should be involved whatsoever, and instead call for only a touch of Cream to tie the Mushroom and Pancetta together in a sauce. If you are looking for a richer and more stick-to-your-ribs dish, this variation is  great  as well - especially during the chill of winter.  

In contrast, our Boscaiola is somewhat purist in its simplicity; 

it's made using only Tomatoes, Parsley, Garlic, White Wine, Mushrooms and Pasta - which means it's also Meatless Monday ready. As is our custom at Neurotic Kitchen, our Boscaiola is relatively fast and very easy. Since I could write a whole post on my boundless obsession with Mushrooms, you can bet that our sauce will feature a very, shall we say, "healthy" helping of them. 

A few things to note before you begin:

Seasoning is very important to this dish. And by seasoning I mean Salt and Black Pepper, not necessarily a lot, but do taste the sauce to make sure the end result is well flavored. A bit of Salt is important to make sure the Mushroom flavor pops. I add Crushed Red Pepper during the cooking process. What can I say, it's my favorite and I do think a hint of spice adds something.  

Pasta Choice:
For our Pasta, we chose Pappardelle, a wide, flat shaped noodle, but Boscaiola lends itself well to twisty pasta shapes such as Fusilli or Campanelle. Cavatelli or Stozzapretti are also good choices.  

Porcini Mushrooms are a customary part of most Boscaiola sauces. Buy them dried and reconstitute them in water for ten minutes before cooking. Porcini have a strong flavor so you only need an ounce or so of them in your Mushroom Mix. They are expensive though, and while they add deep flavor, your Boscaiola will still be quite tasty without them. I didn't happen to have Porcini on hand in the making of today's dish, but you could absolutely throw in an ounce or two to your Mushroom mix if you so choose. 

As far as the other Mushrooms, you'll be most pleased if you choose a mix of the wild varieties, or at least those types that are considered a step above regular White Button Mushrooms. These include: Oyster Mushrooms, Hen of the Woods (aka Maitake) Mushrooms, Chanterelles (also pricey), Shitake, Portabella, or Cremini. Any mix you are partial to will do. I like to have a variety of different shapes and chop the Mushrooms thickly so that you get nice meaty bites of each kind. 

Remember that Mushrooms shrink significantly when they cook.Since we are using  a whole pound in our dish, the amount may seem alarming at first, but they do cook down quite a bit. Either way, serve this wonderful dish to people who love Mushrooms and you'll have no problems. 

Pappardelle alla Boscaiola
Serves 3 as an entree   

1 Pound Mixed Fancy Mushrooms (we used Maitake, Oyster, Shitake and Cremini*)
14.5 Ounce Can of Diced Tomatoes, preferably organic (we like Muir Glen brand)
1/2 Cup White Wine (we used Pinot Grigio)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
5 Whole Garlic Cloves
1/2 Cup finely chopped Italian Parsley 
3/4 Pound Pappardelle or other Pasta (corkscrew varieties work especially well too)
Salt and Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
Grated Parmigiana Cheese - optional 

* There are a few great "Fancy Mushroom Blends" available at supermarkets that package several varieties of Mushroom in one. 

1. Set a pot of well-Salted water to boil for the Pasta. 
Photo: NK
Meanwhile, In a large skillet, heat the Olive Oil and Garlic Cloves over Medium Heat until Garlic begins to get slightly golden but not burnt. 

2. Add the canned Tomatoes, a few shakes of Salt, and about 5 turns of Freshly Ground Black Pepper. Add the White Wine and stir. Allow the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes until the liquids evaporate a bit. Now add the Mushrooms and Crushed Red Pepper. 

3. Allow to cook another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished, pick out the Garlic Cloves and discard. Stir in the Parsley and taste for seasoning, adding extra Salt and Pepper if desired.  

4. Once water is boiling, cook Pasta as directed. Drain and set aside until sauce is done, reserving some Pasta Water to loosen the noodles if they stick. Plate Pasta with the Boscaiola Sauce and garnish with Parsley Sprigs and an optional sprinkle of Parmigiana Cheese. 
Buon Appetito! 

Pappardelle alla Boscaiola, Photo: NK 


  1. I'm making it tonight for Lauren and I why the husbands are out and about. I'm hoping it will taste as good as yours because obviously, it won't look as beautiful. Now the bigger or white? I know you used white in it, so stick with that? -Julie

  2. I think white is best but red should be absolutely fine too a and will likely add a nice dimension. I hope you enjoy!

  3. Your blog is really awesome.I like Italian culture, tradition, Italian food etc . I have taken various courses to learn Italian language and now i can speak fluently. Last summer I have visited Italy as well as I have visited Italian restaurant.I have enjoyed Italian food very much.

  4. Very glad you are enjoying and thanks for reading!