It’s hard to follow medical orders at the best of times, but for once in my life I’ve done it. I’ve kept to my tiresome (faticoso) meat-free diet all year. As if living without roast pork isn’t bad enough, I’ve undergone the nerve-racking (stressante) absence of cheese. How can I live without cheese? How can anyone?
But this enforced abstinence has made me appreciate other foods and I’ve become even fonder of mushrooms. Wild mushrooms of course. Take a look at these beauties.
The only thing to do is to turn them into pasta con funghi!
No cheese, but mushrooms have a delicate earthy flavour which can be overwhelmed by cheese anyway. Don’t cook cheese in, instead place a bowl of grated Pecorino Romano on the table for those who want to add some.
To start with, I went for my favourite pasta, mafalda, like narrow lasagne ricce with its ruffled edges, a thoroughly Southern semola pasta.
I’ve seen this called mafaldine, little mafaldas, and also reginette, little queens. The pasta was named for Princess Mafalda, the infant daughter of Vittorio Emanuele III, King of Italy. Perhaps her lacy dresses inspired the frilly pasta, in any case it’s a happy little pasta and very easy to fork up.
But poor Mafalda, her story is a sad one
Let me tell you quickly about Principessa Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana di Savoia. Here’s a photo of the little princess from about 1907, and the ruched lace on her bodice looks remarkably like her namesake pasta.
Beautiful and cultivated, Princess Mafalda was the daughter of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife, Elena of Montenegro. Mafalda’s brother, Umberto II, was the very last King of Italy.
in 1925, she married Prince Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, who reached high rank in Hitler’s regime while acting as an intermediary between Hitler and Mussolini. However, he fell out with the Nazis over the “Jewish Question’, and was imprisoned in 1943 until he was liberated by US forces.
Mafalda had constantly annoyed Hitler by speaking out on behalf of the Jews especially when he wanted Mussolini to crack down on them. When Italy surrendered to the Allies, Hitler decided to take his revenge.
Princess Mafalda was sent to the concentration camp in Buchenwald. She died there in 1944.
- 500 g Mafaldine
- Your choice of an assortment of mushrooms, portobello, oyster, cremini. chantarelles, morels
- 3-4 minced garlic cloves
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 minced shallots
- cup of reserved pasta water
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a few glugs of olive oil to it.
- Carefully drop in the mafaldine and cook until barely al dente. Drain and reserve some of the water.
- In a pan, add the sliced mushrooms to some olive oil and saute till they're soft. Don't crowd them, cook in batches if you have to
- In a larger pan, quickly saute the garlic and onions. Add the drained pasta, swoosh it around and drop in the mushrooms. Toss.
- If the pasta seems dry, add the reserved water a bit at a time
- Serve garnished with parsley