Delicious homemade ribbons of tagliatelle tossed with sliced portobello mushrooms.
It isn’t easy to find a restaurant that can accommodate 20 people for dinner without reservations. But that is what we found ourselves looking for on a day trip to Lucca with the bride and groom and several of their relatives. Among us were a 93-year-old and two 5-year-olds, and it was getting late. So we had resigned ourselves to eating at the closest place that would seat all 20 of us immediately.
We found Rousseau Il Doganiere on a side street only half a block from our meeting point. The majority of us had overdone it on pizza at lunch and were only feeling up for salad, while those who hadn’t joined us for lunch embarked on an Italian marathon meal that included truffled steak, soft pillows of house made ravioli with wild boar sauce, and tagliatelle with portobello mushrooms.
Portobello mushrooms had been very much on my mind that week, as they were in season in Tuscany and I had yet to have a satisfying meal that featured them. Just one day previously I had ordered tagliatelle with portobellos for lunch at a place in Artimino and had been disappointed by the blandness of the dish and the relative skinniness of the noodles as a vehicle for the portobellos.
I had just purchased some dried portobellos from a farmer in the town square and had been planning exactly how I would prepare the dish once back in the US, when I caught sight of the tagliatelle with portobellos that my friend had ordered – and the enraptured look on his face as he ate it. I immediately forgot how full I was and placed an order for myself.
It turned out to be the best pasta dish I had on our entire trip. The dish looked and tasted exactly as I had envisioned. The portobello mushrooms were fresh and soft and flavorful, and the noodles were the right thickness, with a slippery texture that still had a bite and cooked to a perfect al dente. The sauce was almost nonexistent, allowing the portobellos to take front and center stage (though I may or may not have detected the slightest hint of cream).
A few nights ago I took at stab at recreating this dish in my own kitchen using the portobellos and some incredibly wide tagliatelle I had brought back from Lucca. I made a simple sauce using olive oil, butter, minced garlic, curly parsley, white wine, the portobellos, and the tiniest touch of cream, tossed it with the noodles, and topped it with some freshly grated pecorino from Volterra.
The result was not exactly the same as what I had at Rousseau Il Doganiere, but it was delicious nonetheless. The noodles from Lucca were incredible and the sauce was almost perfect, but I both overcooked and over salted the mushrooms. Fortunately I have another half package of both the mushrooms and the pasta left, and am confident that I know enough now to get the outcome I want next time.
If I have learned one thing from eating in Italy, using a few quality ingredients often results in the most delicious outcome. And for me this simple, lovely dish perfectly illustrates the truth of that statement.