Pasta alla Boscaiola

published Dec 11, 2023
Pasta alla Boscaiola Recipe

Made with dried mushrooms, tomato sauce, and heavy cream, pasta alla boscaiola will be your new favorite Italian comfort food.

Serves6 to 8

Prep35 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Overhead shot of pasta alla boscaiola in a cream and yellow rimmed pasta plate, topped with herbs and cheese.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

We may all be familiar with weeknight-friendly Italian pasta staples like penne alla vodka, carbonara, and cacio e pepe. But, have you heard about pasta alla boscaiola? It’s a rich, hearty, meaty, tomato-based pasta that has quickly become a staple in my weekly pasta rotation. It’s got everything: smoky bites of Italian sausage, crispy bacon, earthy mushrooms, a generous amount of cream, and freshly chopped rosemary. Here’s how to make your new weeknight favorite. 

What Is the Meaning of Boscaiola?

The word “boscaiola” means woodsman or woodcutter in Italian. The dish’s name came from the fact that it’s traditionally made with the most popular foraged food in the Italian woods — mushrooms.

What Is Pasta Alla Boscaiola Made Of?

The main ingredients in classic pasta alla boscaiola are smoky meat (either sausage or thick-cut bacon), umami-rich mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, heavy cream, and plenty of Parmesan cheese. What makes it unique and different from other tomato-based dishes is the addition of mushrooms. 

Traditionally, the dried mushroom that’s used in boscaiola is porcini mushrooms. I love porcini mushrooms, but they can be a little pricey. So, my solution for bringing the savory mushroom flavor to the forefront is to use dried shiitake mushrooms. They are so versatile, especially in Asian cooking, and they are packed with earthy, umami flavors at a much lower price. Of course, you can use dried porcini mushrooms in this recipe (especially if you already have them).

Some boscaiola recipes use sausage while others use thick-cut bacon. Instead of choosing just one, I opted to use both! The combination of sausage and bacon creates a beautiful balance of flavors. I recommend using hot Italian sausage, which adds a pleasant heat level, and thick-cut bacon to provide a crunchy bite. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

If You’re Making Pasta Alla Boscaiola, a Few Tips

  • Reserve the liquid after hydrating the dried mushrooms. Whether you use porcini or shiitake, the liquid that you use to hydrate the mushrooms has so much flavor. In my recipe, I recommend hydrating the dried mushrooms in wine and hot water to speed up the process. When the dried mushrooms become plump and pliable, squeeze them to extract all the flavor, which is later used in the sauce. 
  • Be patient when cooking the mushrooms. What makes boscaiola sauce unique is the mushrooms. So, take your time browning the mushrooms, which brings depth to the sauce.
  • Be generous with the starchy pasta water. Once you toss the cooked pasta with the sauce, it might look dry at first. Adding lots of reserved starchy water brings everything together. Just 1/4 cup of starchy water could be enough, but once the cheese is tossed into the pasta, it will absorb and thicken the sauce. I recommend using more than 1/2 cup to make it extra saucy. 

Pasta alla Boscaiola Recipe

Made with dried mushrooms, tomato sauce, and heavy cream, pasta alla boscaiola will be your new favorite Italian comfort food.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce

    dried shiitake mushrooms (about 20) or dried porcini mushrooms

  • 3/4 cup

    dry white wine

  • 1/4 cup

    boiling water

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 2 sprigs

    fresh rosemary

  • 1 pound

    baby bella or cremini mushrooms

  • 1 1/2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated), plus more for garnish

  • 1/4 medium bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 3 slices

    thick-cut bacon

  • 1 pound

    raw hot italian sausage

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 1 pound

    dried rigatoni pasta

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the stems from 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms (no need to trim stems if using porcinis). Place the mushrooms, 3/4 cup dry white wine, and 1/4 cup boiling water in a medium bowl. Let the mushrooms soak until pliable, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Finely chop 1 medium yellow onion (about 2 cups). Mince 3 garlic cloves. Pick the leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and finely chop (about 2 teaspoons).

  3. Thinly slice 1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms. Finely grate 1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated. Pick the leaves from 1/4 medium bunch fresh parsley and coarsely chop (about 1/2 cup). Cut 3 slices of thick-cut bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove the casings from 1 pound raw hot Italian sausage if needed.

  4. When the dried mushrooms are ready, remove from the liquid and squeeze the excess liquid back into the bowl (reserve the liquid). Finely chop and add to the bowl with the onion.

  5. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and sausage. Break the sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and the sausage is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.

  7. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the cremini mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and cook until the moisture releases and evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add the onion mixture and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms soaking liquid, leaving behind any sediment at the bottom, and cook for 1 minute.

  8. Add 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer cook until the moisture is slightly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions for al dente.

  9. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta, reserved sausage and bacon, Parmesan, 1/2 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to the sauce. Toss until combined, adding the pasta water 1/4 cup at a time if the sauce is too thick. Serve topped with the parsley and more grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat over low heat on the stovetop and thin the sauce out with a few spoonfuls of water.