The Garfagnana region of Tuscany is steeply wooded and rural—quite different from the more well-known parts of the area. Not only is the area a mushroom-hunter’s heaven, the mint the Italians call nepitella (Calamintha nepeta) grows wild here, too. So, this is a forager’s supper, and it is also an ace pasta for beginners. Strapponi are hand-torn pieces of pasta, ripped any which way; these ragged bits of pasta are also called straccetti.
Marica demonstrated this for us. She is a cook at the Agriturismo Venturo, in a little town called Castelnuovo where we stayed during filming in the region. She’s too young to be a nonna but her recipe is too good to pass over! If you can only find dried porcini mushrooms, then use fresh mushrooms of a different variety—mixed wild mushroom, girolles, or chanterelle will also work.
For the pasta:
- 3 1/3 cups (14 ounces) 00 flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
- 4 eggs
For the dressing:
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (preferably nepitella)
- 1 pound, 2 ounces fresh porcini mushrooms, chopped
Make the pasta dough as described in the Egg Pasta Dough recipe.
Once it has rested for 30 minutes, roll it out to the thickness of ordinary shortcrust pastry—i.e., it doesn’t have to be as see-through thin as tagliatelle. Aim for about 2–3 millimeters thick. Roll it up around your pin while you make the sauce.
To make the dressing, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the garlic and mint and fry the mixture for a couple of minutes, before adding the chopped mushrooms. Keep frying to soften the mushrooms, season them with a pinch of salt, and add 3 1/2 fluid ounces (scant 1/2 cup) of water. Let this cook off, then continue frying the mushrooms until they are golden. Remove the garlic.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, salt it, and return it to the boil. Keeping the pasta rolled around your rolling pin, hold the pin above and near the water (don’t burn yourself in the steam) and pull pieces off and drop them in the water. This is how Marica does it. For those of you who don’t want to brandish your rolling pin, simply tear off pasta strips/squares/odd shapes roughly the size of a credit card and then dump them in the boiling water. Cook for 2–3 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pasta pieces.
Drain and add the pasta to the mushroom mixture.
Give everything a good stir and toss together. And you’re done; the pasta is ready. In Garfagnana, this is not served with cheese.
Recipe excerpted with permission from “Pasta Grannies” by Vicky Bennison, published by Hardie Grant Books, October 2019.