The luxurious quality of this dish belies how simple it is to make. Really you do most of the work at the market, acquiring great fresh pasta, ricotta, and mushrooms. Come dinner time, all you have to do is boil the noodles and saute the fungi.
I made this dish with hedgehog mushrooms, which taste very much like chanterelles, but are a little less expensive and have a later season. If they are done in your area, cultivated shiitakes seem to be available year-round now and would also be delicious. King oyster mushrooms work too.
Italians will tell you that it isn't a question of fresh or dried pasta being better. They are just different, and each marries best with a certain range of sauces. Fresh pasta is especially well suites to cream sauces, and you can think of a big dollop of fresh ricotta as the world's simplest cream sauce.
You could of course make the pasta yourself, but then we aren't in weeknight-dinner territory, we are in project land. You can find fresh pasta at many farmer's markets, or in the refrigerator section of a good grocer. The quality of the grocery store stuff varies, so you might have to experiment to find a brand you like.
[If you happen to live in Seattle, DeLaurenti's in Pike Place Market sells Calabro ricotta in bulk, and also cuts fresh pasta to order. They barely advertise it, but if you look over in the corner between the cheese counter and the checkout, you will see a sign with the various shapes and doughs. Delicious stuff. Walk out the door to the produce vendors, buy your mushrooms and a Meyer lemon, and you are all set for dinner.]
Fresh Fettucini with Hedgehog or Shiitake Mushrooms and Ricotta
Vegetarian; not vegan or gluten-free
Serves 4 as a main course
- 1 pound fresh fettucini noodles
- 1 pound fresh ricotta (preferably Calabro)
- 1 pound mushrooms (hedgehog, chanterelle, shiitake, king oyster… probably not standard white buttons)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- zest of one lemon, Meyer if possible
- sea salt (Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt)!)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil.
- Get the ricotta out of the fridge so it isn't ice cold when you serve it.
- Clean, trim and slice the mushrooms. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute the mushrooms until tender and browning, about 8 minutes. During the saute you may need to adjust the heat so that the butter isn't burning.
- Boil the pasta, either according to package directions or until it is al dente. Fresh pasta doesn't take as long as dried, usually just a few minutes. Taste a bite frequently, and stop the moment it is done.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining tablespoon of butter.
- To serve, divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top with the mushrooms, ricotta, lemon zest, more salt, and a good grind of black pepper.