Updated 2008-08-09 15:54:54 ID=26:0

© 2008 The Romantic Table
©2008 The Romantic Table 2008-06-15 22:51:51:17
©2008 The Romantic Table

Thinking of Foresta Sauce!

Search for the forgotten Foresta Sauce

The other night, after a small four-course dinner party for a few friends that I felt obliged –and wanted to throw, I had to wave a white flag to my programmer-photographer husband, “Enough is enough" I said! "For a change I just want a simple light sauce!”

For the web site, I’ve been cooking as if we are a restaurant, trying to get as many of my dishes photographed for its debut as soon as possible. But the other night after a small four-course dinner party for a few friends that I felt obliged –and wanted to throw, I had to wave a white flag to my programmer-photographer husband, “Enough is enough" I said! "For a change I just want a simple light sauce!”

Now don’t get me wrong! –All of these dishes that I’ve been making –and eating are delicious –almost too much so! – But all I could think about was a nice simple sauce my grandmother would make. It was a sauce made with wild mushrooms we picked. This type of sauce is called a “Forestra” meaning from the forest - which it literally was! –But what was the recipe..?

I thought back. Let’s see, it was a light tomato sauce that she’d put in what she called sponge mushrooms, better-known as morels- that we had just picked in the Spring after the dirty-snow had melted away on our thirty-five acre rural woods adjacent to the shores of Lake Michigan. Even as a kid, I loved wild mushrooms. I felt protective of my mushrooms! I used to get mad when a bunch of neighbor “poachers” would come on to our property and try to get to the mushrooms first.---I would always try to drive them off with lots of “dirty-looks - which was about all a nine year old could do!”

My sauce will be better I thought because here in California I can find fresh Farmers Market tomatoes year-round. And where my grandmother used a little onion, I’ll use a shallot and a little garlic. I remember her sauce always had a nice clean taste when you ate it –like a walk in the woods that the mushrooms came from. I can try to duplicate this taste by using a little fresh rosemary to give it an outdoorsy-piny smell and taste.

Now! What type of mushrooms should I use? I think Shiitake and maybe a few oyster mushrooms. You can get really good “wild” mushrooms at our Farmers Markets, but I’ll also add a few hydrated dried Porcini mushrooms too that I have on hand to give the sauce a bit of “wild mushroom-soul” and texture.

I thought, "I'll sauté shallot and garlic first in a little extra-virgin olive oil, then add the mushrooms and sauté them just enough to release their liquid, and maybe brown a bit on the edges. Then I’ll deglaze them with a little Fume’ Blanc white wine, cook that down a bit, add chopped fresh tomatoes, throw in a little fresh rosemary, season with salt and freshly cracked pepper and let it simmer for a while on the stove.

If the sauce is a bit watery, I can add just a bit of tomato paste, but that might not be necessary since I want to keep the sauce light and truly a fresh sauce. Contrary to some American tastes, normally Italians do not smother their pasta in a heavy sauce, but rather keep the sauce light so the pasta can be tasted. The should sauce compliment the pasta rather than drown it.

Well I did make the Forestra Sauce. It was even better than I remembered. The freshly-cut rosemary really was fragrant while it cooked and brought back happy memories of being in the woods picking mushrooms with my Grandparents. And better yet, this was a rare “mama-cooking” dish that is a godsend for waistlines. You can read the recipe Foresta Sauce with Strozzapreti in the recipe section.

I served it with some imported Strozzapreti (if you can't find that a good linguine or fusilli will work) that I had on hand and topped it with freshly-grated Parmesan Reggiano. It looked and tasted divine!---You know, sometimes less is more!

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A tip from Sue!

Get a Black Pepper Mill

There's nothing that substitutes for freshly cracked black pepper. You can find pepper mills in all price ranges. Just get one that looks like it will hold up well over continual use. Freshly cracked black pepper can really enhance the smell and final taste of a recipe!