The Home Cook—Patricia Wells’ Pilaf with Tomato Sauce and Porcini Mushrooms

Let me start off by saying that I am a newbie to the world of cooking. Sure I love watching the Food Network and collecting cookbooks for the amazing food photography as much as anyone, but Kim in the kitchen?—not so much. As of late however I have found myself experimenting with simple recipes and really taking to the whole experience of being in the kitchen with a nice glass of wine. So in honor of mushrooms—our ingredient of the month—I decided to tackle a seemingly simple recipe from Patricia Wells’ Tratorria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy.

Pilaf with Tomato Sauce and Porcini Mushrooms

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup (1/2 ounce; 15 g) dried porcini mushroom slices

2 cups (500 ml) boiling water

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces; 45 g) unsalted butter

1 shallot, minced

Sea salt to taste

1 ½ cups (270 g) Italian Arborio rice

3 bay leaves, preferably fresh

1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock, preferably homemade (page 272)

2  cups (500 ml) Tomato Sauce (page 256)

¼ cup (60 ml) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped with a scissor.

  1. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms and boiling water. Soak the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes, preferably for 2 hours. Using your hands, lift the mushrooms from the water, squeezing out as much water as possible. Unless they are perfectly clean, rinse the mushrooms under cold running water. If there are still pieces of soil embedded in the mushrooms, use a small knife to scrape off the soil. Pat them dry with paper towels. If the mushroom slices are unusually large, chop them coarsely. Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid—rich with porcini flavor—through several thicknesses of moistened cheese cloth. Set aside.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the oil, 1 tablespoon of the butter, the shallot, and salt over moderate heat. Cook, stirring, until the shallot is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. (Do not let the shallot brown.) Add the rice, and stir until the rice is well coated with the fats, glistening and semi translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, the mushrooms and reserved mushroom liquid, the chicken stock, and tomato sauce, and bring just to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the rice is almost tender but firm to the bite, about 15 minutes total. The pilaf should have a creamy, porridge-like consistency, and the liquid should not be completely absorbed. Taste for seasoning. Remove the bay leaves.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the parsley, and basil. Transfer to warmed shallow soup bowls and serve immediately.

WINE SUGGESTION: With the heartiness of the mushrooms and the tomatoes, I enjoy a big wine such as a Gattinara, from the Piedmont.


The meal was delicious. As soon as the pilaf started to boil, the aroma immediately began to permeate through my apartment—talk about fast results! The flavor of the mushrooms blended in nicely and I found shopping for the ingredients to be relatively simple despite not knowing what a shallot was—yes, I am ashamed to admit it, but thank goodness for Google! And aside from having to prepare the chicken broth and tomato sauce (if making from scratch), the recipe didn’t take very long to make.

I would recommend this dish as the perfect remedy to a rainy or cold weather day.

Bon Appétit!

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