September is National Mushroom Month. We’ve put together some of our favorite mushroom recipes, below, as well as this yummy recipe for Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara With Mushrooms. The mushrooms substitute for the cured pork in the original recipe. Here’s the classic recipe, and the history of Spaghetti Carbonara recipe, which includes the history of Spaghetti Carbonara. International Carbonara Day is April 6th.
The name “carbonara” comes from the carbonaro, Italian for “coal burner.” It was believed that the dish was created as a hearty, easy-to-make meal by men working outdoors for long periods, who used a coal burner to cook the dish.
>Check out the different types of mushrooms.
This recipe from DeLallo is an evolution of Spaghetti Carbonara. It has carbonara’s sauce, which is made with mushrooms, eggs, butter, garlic, thyme, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. But it lacks the guanciale (pork jowl).
You can add the meat, of choice. But it may be easier to use crisp bacon, which works beautifully with the mushrooms.
The history of mushrooms is below.
1. BRING a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water.
2. MELT the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. ADD the thyme sprigs and mushrooms to the skillet. Once the mushrooms are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes, remove the thyme sprigs and discard them.
4. ADD the hot pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.
5. WHISK together the eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a mixing bow. Remove the pasta from heat and pour the egg mixture into the pasta, tossing quickly until the eggs thicken and create a sauce. Thin the sauce with a bit of the reserved hot pasta water, until it reaches your desired consistency.
Before you dig in, here are some tips for cooking mushrooms.
THE HISTORY OF MUSHROOMS
We’ll get to food mushrooms in a minute, but the earliest uses of mushrooms seem to be spiritual/religious. Long before written history, what we now call “magic mushrooms” were employed thusly. When writing records appear, we know that such mushrooms were considered sacred.
Archaeological evidence of mushrooms used “spiritually” may be as old as 10,000 B.C.E. Mushroom grew around the world, and were use by the Chinese, the Mayas and the Vikings, as well as the Greeks and Romans. (But that’s another article for another publication) [source].
Unlike plants, mushrooms (which are funghi) are very difficult to cultivate. Even today, relatively few of the 614 species of edible mushrooms can be cultivated (there are more than 10,000 species overall). Morels are an example of a desirable mushroom that cannot be cultivated commercially [source].
Mushrooms have been foraged since prehistoric times. Skipping ahead to written history*, we know they were prized in ancient Greece and Rome. There is evidence that shiitakes were first cultivated in China and Japan as early as 600 C.E.
Far earlier, the Chinese cultivated Auricularia polytricha, the cloud ear fungus, around 300 to 200 B.C.E.
The cultivation of mushrooms in Western cultures was first recorded in Paris around 1650: Agaricus bisporus, white button mushroom. It seems very late, given how mushrooms took French cuisine by storm! The mushroom was first discovered growing wild in a melon crop compost!
From France, mushrooms hopped the English Channel to England. By 1865, the U.S. began mushroom cultivation. In addition to the white button mushroom, two genetic variants of Agaricus bisporus appeared: the cremini/crimini and the portabello/portobello.
In the U.S., the first known reference to mushrooms is in a 1824 cookbook, “The Virginia Housewife” (1824). Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, the American staple used in countless casserole recipes, was invented in the 1930 [source].
Today the most commonly consumed variety is the button mushroom, that same Agaricus bisporus. It makes up about 40% of the mushrooms grown around the world. The name “mushroom” has been given to over 38,000 varieties of fungus that possess the same threadlike roots and cap. These threads, sometimes referred to as gills, are responsible for giving mushrooms like portobellos their meaty taste and texture. As air passes through the threads moisture evaporates, giving the mushroom a rich heartiness you can really sink your teeth into [source].
*The earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).