Mugello Mushrooms… By Chance
We recently headed back to the Mugello valley for a weekend with the warm, welcoming Manetti family (and, of course, Mamma Gianna’s cooking is an enticement, too). Funghi ended up being a surprise highlight of the weekend. Funghi per caso: “mushrooms by chance”. Due to an inordinately hot, dry summer all over the peninsula, few fungaroli had been combing the woods til now: why put in the effort? But – finalmente - it had rained intensely October had been unseasonably warm. For mushroom-hunters, che combinazione perfetta!
Mushroom-hunting was not on our weekend agenda, even though our beloved agriturismo Casa Passerini is perched on the edge of a forest. On Sunday morning, I’d joined Gianna for espresso in the kitchen, her preparations for our luncheon feast almost concluded.
Arugula from the garden was ready for salad and the garden’s last summer vegetables (zucchini flowers, zucchini, eggplants, red onions) simmered in colorful medley on the stove. On a nearby burner, a savory wild boar pasta sauce bubbled. The farm’s homegrown meat was ready for grilling: Gianna had rubbed goat ribs and pork ribs with garlic and salt and sausages, pricked with a fork, were lined up along the ribs. Some crumbled sausage meat for the lasagna simmered in white wine awaiting the porcini mushrooms Gianna was cleaning. The mixture would be folded into a rich bèchamel sauce for the homemade lasagna.
“Who found the porcini?” I asked. “Gianna e Marco”, she replied with a grin (son Marco – and also daughter Giulia – are enthusiastic fungaroli).
The enticing kitchen smells followed me out the door as I headed with my camera up the back hill for a few pre-lunch shots of our treasured Mugello retreat. White spots dotted the grassy embankment behind the villa. White and yellow. Myriads. Funghi. Alzaterra (“raise the earth” – as the loamy earth sits on their caps) and the yellow pinaroli, growing under the pine trees, in tight clumps.
Gianna lent me a basket (the spores must return to the earth – by law, only baskets of vegetable fibre are allowed for gathering), quickly filled.
Gianna sent those mushrooms back to Assisi with us: after all, the nobler porcini (also dubbed “Sua Maesta'” ) reigned at our banchetto that day – (and not only…!)
That night, here at home, we feasted on the pinaroli, their pungent, rich taste transporting us back to il Mugello.