Hungry in Hogtown posted this week about cooking with La vache qui rit cheese and my mind went immediately to the old school classic - pasta con il formaggino - and I thought I'd make a grown-up version for this week's Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Patsy of Family, Friends & Food.
Italian mothers everywhere feed their toddlers pasta with formaggino. As a young kid, it was an absolute staple. When we were fussy or my mom didn't feel like cooking anything more complicated, we had this Italian version of macaroni and cheese.
For anyone who isn't familiar with formaggino (literally, "little cheese"), it's the Italian spreadable cheese sold in individually wrapped wedges or rounds. Personally, I am partial to Crema bel paese but you can experiment to find your own favourite.
While I absolutely love the classic version, I was in the mood for something more sophisticated and I'd been eyeing these porcini mushroom tortelloni. I resisted for weeks because of my short-lived attempt at a low-carb diet but who was I kidding? I was raised on bread and pasta and was lost without it.
Back to the tortelloni. As I said, I'd been eyeing this pasta because porcini mushrooms are among my favourite foods ever. Remember those fairy tale toadstools? That's what the porcini mushrooms look like and their perfume is out of this world. They are night and day to the mushrooms you find in the grocery store which pale in comparison to the pungent earthy aroma of the porcini.
Alas, they are not readily available where I live except dried, which I use often, but there is nothing like a fresh porcini mushroom in season. I was lucky enough to forage for porcini mushrooms in Italy, where they grow wild. It was incredible but falls into the category of "don't try this at home" unless you are with an expert! There are many poisonous mushrooms that resemble edible species, including porcinis, and it is very easy to get them mixed up as my mother's family discovered many years ago in a terrible trip to the emergency room.
We were with a life-long forager so we had no reservations about devouring the mushrooms we picked. In fact, we practically ran back to town with our bounty and promptly cooked up a feast of pasta with porcini mushrooms sauteed in oil and sat down in a cantina to enjoy it with copious amounts of wine drawn directly from barrels. Heaven.
You can imagine, then, that my standards were quite high but these tortelloni were definitely up to the challenge. While they could not compete head to head with fresh porcini they were really very good.
I had been contemplating what sauce to pair with the tortelloni when I saw the Hungry in Hogtown post and was inspired to use a cheese sauce. I decided on goat cheese - I figured it would stand up to the porcini mushrooms and complement it nicely. I was not disappointed.
I also decided to add chives for a mild onion flavour and it was good but competed a bit with the porcini so next time I would leave them out unless I was using plain pasta.
Tortelloni with goat cheese
250g (8oz) package of tortelloni (I used PC Trento-Alto-Adige Porcini Mushroom Tortelloni)
125g (4oz) goat cheese
Cook tortelloni in boiling salted water according to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, crumble goat cheese in a bowl and add chopped chives. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to loosen up the cheese and create a sauce.
When pasta is cooked, drain and add to cheese mixture. Toss and serve immediately.