How could I travel to Italy and not visit the mountain top village of Cortona? I resisted. Truly I did. I didn’t want to be one of those blurry eyed, dreamy looking tourists on a quest to visit a place they’ve read about in a novel or seen on television in a movie.
With a clever grin and knowing eyes, my darling husband kindly dispelled my silly notion by telling me I’d already been walking around for days like a blurry eyed tourist with eyes the size of saucers. Hmmm… and I thought I was being rather cool and collected.
Early one morning, my husband, who is a sport, no – he’s a super sport, kindly obliged my longing to see Cortona. We hopped a train and arrived at the small, more modern town of Camucia Cortona which lies at the bottom of the mountain where Cortona is so beautifully is perched.
Once inside the walls of the medieval city I felt myself becoming the blurry eyed tourist, eyes wide with amazement of this ancient city. The architecture so unique with steep narrow streets and views of the surrounding countryside. Breathtaking.
Ranger Craig and I spent the day walking the steep and narrow streets, talking to the locals, snapping more pictures than I thought was possible, touring the churches and viewing art of the Renaissance. A magical day that ended with food. Actually, I think we ate our way through Cortona. Pasta, soups, salumi, pastry, wine, more wine and then caffe.
One of the most delicious meals I dined on in Italy was in Cortona. A dish of fresh handmade linguine tossed with savoy cabbage in a light wine and butter sauce, topped with shaved truffle and fresh pecorino. A little heaven in a bowl.
Now that I’m home, I wanted to create a lovely version of that dish. Something fresh, simple but flavorful. We don’t have an abundant of truffles here in the states so I decided to make this an easy dish to prepare with local mushrooms and my favorite Napa cabbage. And of course, if you wish, a drizzle of black truffle oil over the top. A tribute to the lovely day in Cortona.
Serves 3-4 or 4-5 as a side
1 lb of fresh linguine or homemade (fresh quality pasta tastes best in this dish)
1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 cups sliced mixed seasonal mushrooms (I used a mixture of chanterelle, cremini and shiitake)
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2-4 tablespoons butter (start with 2tblsps and add as needed)
2-4 tablespoons olive oil (start with 2tblsps and add as needed)
¼ cup white wine
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle of black truffle oil (optional, but it’s really good!)
Fresh grated parmesan or pecorino
Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the butter/oil is hot add the mushrooms and sauté to your preference. Mushrooms quickly absorb liquid but will eventually release the liquid when they’ve finished cooking.
Just before the mushrooms are done, add the garlic to the mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.
Then stir in the wine letting it simmer for a few seconds. Next toss in the thinly sliced Napa cabbage, and continue to toss with the mushrooms and garlic, adding additional olive oil if needed, until the cabbage is wilted, or crisp tender.
Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and add a pat of additional butter if needed.
Drain the linguine and toss with the mushroom cabbage mixture and plate immediately.
Drizzle each plate of pasta with black truffle oil and shaved pecorino or grated parmesan.