Chestnut Pasta with Wild Mushrooms

Chestnut Pasta with Herby Wild Mushrooms
Chestnut Pasta with Herby Wild Mushrooms

Fresh pasta tossed in garlicky wild mushrooms with a smattering of herbs in a creamy sauce – is my kind of heaven.

I grew up in a small village on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, where the humble chestnut is a much celebrated ingredient throughout the Autumn months. I have fond memories of collecting, pricking and roasting chestnuts over a fire, or of catching wafts of chestnuts slowly roasting away at local markets.

Throughout the autumn, chestnuts are collected and traditionally dried for about forty days in a little hut in the woods, where the fire is fed with chestnut wood. Once dried, they are gradually ground into flour for use throughout the upcoming seasons.

High in calories, packed with nutritional content and super versatile – chestnut flour is now considered a delicacy, but back in the days this was the flour of the poor people, of those who could not afford wheat flour.

In this Chestnut Pasta with Herby Wild Mushrooms recipe, we’re using chestnut flour to make fresh pasta, but it’s also great to make fritters, pancakes, polenta or cakes. Chestnut flour is gluten free, so we use a combination of 60% chestnut flour and 40% Type 00 flour – this makes the pasta a little easier to manage.

Chestnuts and mushrooms are great together, in this recipe we’re combining an underdog mushroom that’s commonly found here in the UK, the jelly ear fungus! It’s a good mushroom for the beginner forager, and can be found all year round.

Extremely popular in Chinese medicine and cuisine, Jelly Ear Fungus (or Wood Ears) are packed with high protein and iron, and low in calories, carbs and fats. A mushroom of somewhat unsettling consistency, the jelly fungus grows in crinkly cap shaped clusters on decaying wood – brown and velvety on the outside, shiny and wrinkled on the inside.

In terms of flavour, when eaten alone their flavour is subtle, the beauty of the jelly ear is its ability to absorb flavours – such as this buttery, garlicky creamy pasta sauce!

You can find out more about foraging for jelly ear fungus in our handy guide.

Ingredients

Serves

4

For the Chestnut Pasta Dough:

240g chestnut flour
160g type 00 flour
4 large eggs
A good pinch of salt
A drizzle of olive oil

For the Herby Mushroom Pasta Sauce:

250g jelly ear mushrooms/wood ear mushrooms
250g other wild mushrooms / (shop-bought is fine)
70g butter
½ tbsp rapeseed oil
½ white onion / 2 shallots, finely sliced
2 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
Small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
150ml single cream
2-3 tbsp pine nuts or hazelnuts, toasted
Large handful freshly grated parmesan / pecorino
Zest of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Method

STEP ONE

Making your Pasta

Combine your two flours together and pour onto a clean worktop, make a well in the middle, cracking the eggs carefully into it.

Add a good pinch of salt to the eggs and a good drizzle of oil. 

Gently whisk the eggs together with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour from around the edges, being careful not to break the well. 

Once the dough starts coming together, get stuck in with your hands and start kneading it, rolling the dough around to pick up all the flour from the work top.

Knead the dough for a minimum of 10 minutes, stretching, rolling, pushing and generally working it as hard as you can. 

The dough is ready when it springs back when you press your finger into it and looks silky and smooth.

Allow the dough to rest for an hour or so (in the fridge) before starting to roll out.  

Using a pasta machine, roll the pasta into whatever shape you may wish – tagliatelle is always a great one for this recipe – long, fat ribbons approximately 6mm wide.

STEP TWO

Making the Sauce

Firstly, in preparation for cooking the pasta, in a separate pan, heat the water to a rolling boil (ensuring there’s plenty of salt in the water – as salty as the sea, so the Italian Nonna’s claim it must be!)

Heat the butter and the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan.

Add the onions to the pan, cooking over a low heat for 10 minutes until translucent and starting to caramelise.  

Add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking for another 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked through. 

Stir in the cream, heating for just a few minutes. Just before you’re ready to toss in the fresh pasta, add the fresh herbs, lemon zest and season to taste.  

STEP THREE

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it floats to the top, with fresh pasta this will only be a couple of minutes. When done, drain.

Toss in the fresh pasta, along with the cheese and toasted nuts. Enjoy! 

 

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Things to Note

You can find out more about foraging for jelly ear fungus in our handy guide.

You can use any kind of pasta to make this recipe.

Chestnut flour can be a little more of a challenge to get hold of outside of Italy, we’d recommended this one available online.

Always use the best quality ingredients, most importantly – fresh eggs.

Making pasta from scratch is really more about a feeling, rather than measurements. Depending on the humidity, the flour, the size of the eggs, you may need more or less flour going along, so getting a feel for the dough is essential.

Make sure your pasta dough rests in the fridge for one hour before rolling out your shapes. This will make it smoother and easier to deal with when rolling it out.

Fresh pasta dough will last in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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