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Lamb and mushroom rigatoni

Time for a food post. One of the fun things that foodies do is to try to duplicate (or improve on) a dish they were served in a restaurant. I first had this at a bistro on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Among the various mushrooms were a few thin slices of Botelus edulus. This earthy mushroom has many names. The French call it cèpe de Bordeaux or cep; in Italy it is porcini; the Brits call it king bolete or penny bun. In Germany it’s known as Steinpilz, in Austria Herrenpilz, in the Netherlands eekhoorntjesbrood, in Mexico as panza. In North America it is most often called by its Italian name, porcini.

B. edulus is the middle-class cook’s truffle. It has a musky quality that is close to a truffle but at a cost that a normal (i.e. middle-class) soul can afford. You can buy them fresh if you’re lucky — or willing to go into the fields at the right time, in the right place with the right knowledge, but mainly they come dried. I buy mine from local mushroom dealers or on online — in bulk (they have a very long shelf-life). Just rehydrate in warm water and they’re (almost) as good as the fresh picked. Buying this way also gives you a bonus, the mushroom dust at the bottom of the bag. Use it to enhance soups, stews, risottos.

Ingredients (serves 4 with leftovers —- maybe)

1 lb lamb cut into cubes or thick slivers

1 t chopped fresh rosemary

1 large onion, sliced in thin half-rounds

1 lb various mushrooms, sliced — porcinis are the key but feel free to toss in whatever you can find …criminis, oysters, shitakes, white button. If dried, rehydrate in warm water. Strain and save the soaking liquid

2 T flour

1 c lamb broth — here you’re likely to run into a problem. Very few stores carry this. I buy mine from a local Market that specializes in English products. You can alway make your own or just fall back on chicken stock (Knorr’s gel-packs are surprisingly good)

1 lb of chopped greens — any greens. I’ve ended up favoring chard or kale but collard or mustard greens work too though mustard greens tend to be a bit strong

1 lb pasta — rigatoni is good. A large, open pasta seems to be best but penne is fine

s & p to taste


brown lamb in a mix of butter and olive oil — use high heat otherwise too much liquid exudes from the lamb. Toss in the rosemary about half way through — remove and set aside

sauté onions and mushrooms in same pan (add butter if needed)

dust with flour — stir to blend

add lamb broth and soaking liquid — cook for 3,4 minutes

return lamb — cook for 4,5 minutes more

add greens — cook till done, another 7 minutes or so

mix with cooked pasta

The dish is remarkably simple yet captures a wonderful array of flavors. I think I’ve actually ended up with something that’s better than the bistro’s but I am not an unbiased observer.

Reader Comments (1)

Hi, I'm a former grad student of yours at Brooklyn College. I'm glad to have found your blog - it brings back old times and memories!
Is there an email address at which I can contact you? If so, can you send it to the email address under which I'm posting? I'd like to ask you about a matter that came up during my student years that I think you might know about - I'll be beyond grateful for any help.

March 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersbe

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