Porcini mushrooms, sold both fresh and dried, are prized in Italian and French cuisine. These popular mushrooms (also known as king bolete or cèpe in French) are cultivated in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, and grow naturally in pine forests at the base of trees. Autumn is porcini season in central Europe, with much of the carefully picked harvest dried for later consumption or export. Fresh porcini are beloved by gourmet chefs and can be sautéed and eaten as a side dish or added to risottos and pasta, while the dried mushrooms add rich flavor to broths and stews.
What Are Porcini Mushrooms?
Porcini mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms with thick, white stalks. The caps can range in size from an inch to nearly a foot, but most collected specimens are no more than a few inches. The caps have a convex shape when young, giving them the ideal appearance for mushrooms, and require no prep other than a quick clean. Because of their status in fine cuisine, their short season, and how difficult they are to cultivate, porcini mushrooms can be pricey.
Now that you’ve acquired the king bolete it’s time to add the hearty flavor to a meal.
For dried porcini mushrooms, steep them in enough boiling water to cover for 15 – 20 minutes. If your recipe calls for water or other liquids use the mushroom water after draining. This adds an even stronger flavor.
After draining, chop them and add to a recipe as you would any fresh mushroom.
If starting with fresh porcini, make sure to brush them off with a damp cloth after checking for worms. Don’t wash them with water unless you will be using them right away. It doesn’t take long for a wet mushroom to become too soft or mushy.
After your mushrooms are cleaned and inspected, simply chop and use in your favorite Italian recipe! A famous way to prepare porcini is grilled or stewed with some thyme or nipitella. However, you can use this versatile gourmet mushroom in a variety of ways:
Ways To Consume Porcini Mushrooms
- In almost any sauce
- In soups or stews
- Fried with or without a flour coating for an appetizer
- As a topping for chicken, steak, or fish
- In any pasta recipe (especially risotto!)
- If the caps are big enough, grill the caps as you would a piece of meat
- Canned in olive oil and then grilled or fried. This also enhances the flavor of the olive oil for use in other dishes.
- Minced and cooked to a paste to serve on bread or with bruschetta
- As a delicious topping for pizza
Here’s a simple porcini recipe that really showcases the flavor. This can be used with dried mushrooms as well. You’ll need:
- At least 4 porcini mushrooms (or half a package of dried mushrooms, use your judgment)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 plum tomatoes for every few mushrooms (I use 2 tomatoes to 4 mushrooms)
- Herbs of your choice (thyme is popular in Tuscany)
Now follow these simple steps:
- Warm the olive oil in a deep pan or pot over medium-high heat, taking care that it doesn’t start to burn.
- Mince the garlic and sauté for about three minutes with your desired herbs.
- While the garlic is cooking, chop the porcini mushrooms and tomatoes.
- Add the mushroom pieces and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it looks like they’ve released all their water. They will be a lot smaller at this point.
- Add the tomato pieces and their juice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. If you misjudged the amounts and it dries out, add some white wine. If using dried mushrooms, add some of the liquid used to rehydrate them.
- When finished, add to any meal or serve as an appetizer with bread
Store fresh, unwashed porcini mushrooms in a loose paper bag in the crisper of the fridge. They’ll keep for a few days, but don’t wait to cook these precious fungi. They’re best used right away. Dried porcini should be kept in an airtight container in a dark, cool (but not cold) place for up to six months.
Nutrition and Benefits
Porcini mushrooms are high in protein, with more than 33 grams of protein per 100-gram serving1. They’re also very high in vitamin A (74 to 149 percent of recommended daily value) and vitamin C (185 percent). Porcini also supply important minerals—100 grams of mushrooms provide 17 percent of your daily recommended value of calcium and 167 percent of the DV of iron.