Search For the Forgotten Foresta 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-piney 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 ”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 Fumé 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.

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!

Source by Susan McGourty

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