Leonardi: Pasta with mushroom sauce evokes memories of the home garden Lifestyles

2021 was not a good year for many reasons, the most obvious being COVID-19! We are all hoping and praying that this terrible curse behind us will end in 2022.

When our family grew up in Weedsport, our lives were centered around the letters “F” and “E”: faith, family, food, and education. Since we were five kids plus our parents, the food took up most of our mother’s time because everything had to be of good quality to please our father, who worked very hard to afford to eat and support us all. Most of the most important life lessons were taught at home, and cooking was one of them. First, we produced all the food in our acre garden, including trees and grapes. It was a family project because we kids and mom did everything but plow; we did this with a big tractor that we rented to plow the place where our plant is planted. We had grapes on the grapes planted by our father, the trees already there, and the forest berry bushes blessed by God. We had apple, apricot, pear, peach and cherry donuts, as well as wild rhubarb plants. We had blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, which only came out every spring. We bought potatoes, asparagus, melons, watermelons, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, pumpkin, garlic, chives, Italian parsley, broccoli, basil, dill, oregano, mint, rosemary, thyme, rosemary beets, peas, beans, chard, spinach, tomatoes, sweet corn and several kinds of salad. We even tried to make our own maple syrup from the abundant maple trees in our yard, but it took several liters of liquid from the trees to make a very small amount of maple syrup, so we gave it up after a few years.

Another thing we grew wild in our yard was mushrooms. Our family loved all kinds of mushrooms. Our parents had a good laugh and ate delicious wild mushrooms for many years, but none of us, the kids, wanted to risk poisoning us because we were taught at school that known be toxic. Our parents were poor and could not buy the mushrooms. They learned early on how to distinguish the edible from the inedible, because the good game was much tastier than the store variety, so they all knew it as their own!

One of our neighbors, Mr. Jorolemon, drove a long-haul truck to Pennsylvania where there were plenty of mushrooms and at reasonable prices. Our mother gave him a standing order once a month to bring back a 5 or 10 pound basket. It makes the most delicious pasta with mushroom sauce, as well as side dishes for other appetizers. Partly because of the low cost and partly because all the sauces were very delicious, we ate some macaroni twice or thrice a week. This month’s recipe is one of them.

Health and good appetite!

Wash the parsley and mushrooms. I wash the mushrooms a few hours before dinner to dry before I cook them. Weigh all the other ingredients so that after you are ready to cook, the sauce is ready first. Always have the sauce ready, because the dough is best cooked right away and let it go well with the sauce. Slice the mushrooms half an hour before cooking or when they are dry. I usually snap off the stem, and when it’s ready to cook, I put the whole stem with the sliced ​​mushrooms.

Pour water into the bowl and bring to a boil. Add salt to cooking water. Put half of the EVOO in a large skillet and, when hot, add the mushrooms. Simmer over medium or high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring two to three times. Salt over low heat, peppering with the pressed garlic. Cook for a few more minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn – only until golden brown. Then lower or remove from the heat and keep warm until the dough is done. Put the dough in boiling water and cook according to the cooking instructions on the package. Remove a cup of cooking water just before cooking the dough. Add about half a cup of water to the mushrooms and reheat the sauce over medium heat. When the dough is almost ready, but still a little hard, drain it, but reserve another cup of cooking water. Put the dough in the pan and let it marinate for a few minutes, stirring well. Then add as much residual EVOO as you like and a little of the remaining pasta cooking water until the balance of EVOO and cooking water is right. I usually sprinkle a little of the grated cheese on the sauce and, if necessary, a little more cooking water, EVOO and cheese until the taste is balanced to suit your taste. Add the parsley and mix again. Enjoy!

Bob Leonardi was born and raised in Weedsport, but spent summers at Lake Owasco in Auburn. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, where he cooked for other students to earn extra money, he moved to Florida and founded a great wine and gourmet grocery store. Within a few years, he expanded his business with a restaurant, upscale dining and event management, which he ran for 15 years in Fort Lauderdale. He bought and renovated the Green Shutters restaurant in 1999, ran it for 12 years in the spring, summer and fall, and was an event organizer in the winter. He was also a food critic during this time and wrote a column for a newspaper called South Florida Social. She has been writing for The Citizen since 2005 and can be reached at The Citizen or at raleonardi@roadrunner.com.


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