I love this time of year! After a hot summer, the weather is now beginning to cool off and it’s time to start thinking about pickling or fermenting your vegetables, curing your own meat and sausages and of course, picking nature’s “spory” little wonders that start growing amongst the bed of fallen leaves and pine needles that now make up most of the forest’s ground cover. All it takes is for the temperature to drop by just a few degrees, a few good rains and lo and behold………..wild mushrooms are in abundance!
Last week, we planned an excursion out of the city and into the fresh mountain air to scavenge for these beautiful and tasty delights. A strong word of caution however! If you have never been mushroom picking before, and aren’t familiar with wild mushrooms, take a good reference book with you so you can identify what you’re picking, take someone that’s in the know, ask people in a village or town nearby if you aren’t sure about what you’ve picked and NEVER eat anything you aren’t 100% certain about! I’m not a wild mushroom connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination and it’s important to leave your “I know everything” cap at home. Because mushrooms never grow in exactly the same way, and some toxic ones mimic the edible ones, be sure you know what you’re doing. I was really glad that we visited a nearby town where a very nice woman sorted through what we picked and turfed about a quarter of them!
That being said, and following those simple rules, mushroom picking is absolutely awesome. It’s a great chance to get out of the city (if you live in the city that is), breathe in the fresh air, and hike though the forest. Kids love it as well and are completely unaware of the educational value; an added bonus and surely something worthy of show-and-tell!
For this particular post (and recipe) we collected wild mushrooms that not only grow near to us in abundance but that are also available cultivated and sold in many specialty fruit and vegetable stores and grocers around the world. Truth be told however, you can feel free to use any type of wild mushrooms you prefer but don’t substitute dried/reconstituted mushrooms as this will alter the flavour of the dish greatly, if need be, use jarred or frozen. Mushrooms are interesting in this respect as dried mushrooms vary greatly in flavour to fresh ones. Another good example of this are sun-dried tomatoes versus fresh ones who’s flavours are completely different. Above is a photographic list of the mushrooms we picked.
Now that we’ve looked closer at the types of mushrooms we picked here and their distribution geographically (bear in mind that the above mushrooms can usually be found cultivated and sold fresh at your local specialty grocer), try to plan a trip to the forest to experience the invigorating feeling that comes with being in nature and picking your own mushrooms! If these varieties aren’t available to you, do some research and find out what edible mushrooms grow close to you and like I said, go right ahead and substitute the ones I used here for the ones that are available to you. If need be, use white/button mushrooms or any any other locally grown variety(ies) from your grocer.
With mushrooms as the focus of the dish I’ve prepared for this blog, let’s take a look at the wild mushroom cannelloni below and what you’ll need to prepare it!
Here’s the shopping list (the quantities are in the recipe). Wild mushrooms, lots of them! Thyme, rosemary, fresh tomatoes for your own tomato sauce or your favourite “passata di pomodoro”, béchamel, ground beef, veal, pork or a mix, ricotta, mozzarella, white wine, salt, pepper and of course the pasta. I also used an onion as I love the flavour of onion and mushrooms together. The pasta for cannelloni is sold in two ways, tubes which you stuff or sheets, similar to those for lasagne that you roll around the stuffing. The choice is yours but be sure to check out the video!
When baking the cannelloni, start off by baking it covered on a rack positioned close to the bottom of the Fornetto oven. You can also cook it beautifully in a conventional oven or a Fornetto smoker or kamado!
After they’ve baked covered, remove the foil and place them onto a rack positioned as close to the top of the Fornetto as possible. This will help brown the cheese.
Once fully browned, they’re ready to go!
Perfectly baked and scrumptious; you’re guests will come back for seconds. Guaranteed! Cannelloni also makes a great starter to any meal.
All that’s left to do is to garnish the cannelloni with a fresh sprig of thyme and rosemary, which really accentuates the “woodsyness” of the wild mushrooms, pour a glass of a full-bodied red wine and tear off a piece of crusty bread for sopping up any sauce left over on the plate!