October and November in northern Italy and southern Austria are the months of mushroom picking. There are actually special trips to the Alps, organized by mushroom enthusiasts, for picking many different kinds of mushrooms, but Porcini in particular. These mushrooms are so prized, that in order to preserve the natural environment, authorities in some areas put in place a licensure requirement in order to gather them. They grant only a limited number of licenses, and restrict the quantities each person can harvest for personal use.
My parents love walking in the woods and picking mushrooms, and my mom is one of the best porcini soup makers. Porcini soup though, requires several pounds of fresh porcini and could be considered a quite expensive dish, if you don’t have the chance to get the “raw material” direct from mother nature! The arrival of fall made me miss so much this kind of dish, since I am no longer in Italy with the luxury of this mushroom bounty, or my mother’s splendid cooking. So after some considering, I decided that since porcini and squash are a pretty delicious combo (see my dried porcini and squash risotto) I came up with an easy, less expensive, and fabulous way to make the porcini soup, on a base of butternut squash. The ingredients required by this recipe, indeed, are exactly the same as my simple butternut squash soup (with all the good benefits coming from eating orange and yellow food) BUT a pack of dried porcini mushrooms, some nutmeg and possibly (but not necessarily) a mushroom bouillon. The taste and texture of this “porcini mushroom soup in disguise” is pretty similar to the Italian version, and I assure you that just its smell will conquer your senses and bring your thoughts to the Alps!
INGREDIENTS FOR A 1/2 GALLON POT
1 big carrot (or two little ones)
2 medium sized yellow squash (sometimes called summer squash, or a yellow zucchini)
1 medium sized butternut squash
1 pack dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbs. olive oil
sea salt to taste
2 tsp. dried or fresh rosemary
2 tsp. powdered nutmeg
1 mushroom bouillon or vegetable bouillon cube
grated parmesan cheese (for dusting)
1/2 gallon water
Start by washing and cutting all of your vegetables: peel and chop both the onion and carrots; clean up the butternut squash by taking away the hard skin, scooping the seeds and cutting into little cubes. Leave the peel on the yellow squash and chop these as well. Do not do anything with the porcini yet (for this recipe they don’t need to be previously soaked in water). In a big pot (I use a steel one) heat about 2 Tbs. olive oil on medium heat and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent and then add the chopped carrot. Wait a little until the carrots brown with the onion, stir a few times and then add the chopped yellow squash and butternut squash (for the pictures step by step of this phases, look at my Butternut squash soup recipe). Let the vegetables cook few minutes (never lowering the heat) and then add the bouillon, the nutmeg, the rosemary and cover with water.
Cover the pot with the lid and as soon as the water starts boiling, put the pot at lower heat for 30 minutes. At this point, add the dried porcini, cover with the lid and let the soup cook for another ten minutes.
Blend the soup with an immersion blender to make it nice and creamy (if you like, before doing that, set aside few porcini to decorate the bowl when you’ll serve it).
When you serve the soup, remember to offer at least one tablespoon per soup bowl of the best grated parmesan.
LEARNT IT, MADE IT, LOVED IT!
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