Pasta alla Boscaiola is an Italian classic, eaten in Fall when the wild mushrooms grow abundantly in the Italian forests. It's hearty and flavorful comfort food, with a creamy delicious sauce with all the flavors of fresh wild mushrooms and the savoriness of bacon.
Many people in Italy love to forage mushrooms themselves or at least know someone who does. It's very common to receive a basket from a friend full of fresh wild mushrooms freshly foraged.
The most common and most loved mushroom is the Porcini mushroom. It has a very intense flavor and can be cooked in many ways. Thankfully, it's also very easy to find dried Porcini mushrooms even outside of Italy so you can recreate many dishes, such as my Porcini mushroom Ravioli and my Pumpkin and Porcini mushroom Risotto.
Fresh mushrooms can be easily frozen but they're always best when consumed fresh. Since they don't last very long once foraged, it's common to make a big mushroom feast to use up as many as possible. From mushroom Crostini to pasta, to fried mushrooms or sautèed with cream. There are so many delicious recipes to enjoy this fantastic product.
What is Boscaiola Sauce?
Boscaiola sauce, Boscaiola Pasta or Penne alla Boscaiola. It's a typical Italian Fall comfort food. The term "Boscaiola" comes from "Boscaiolo", which means woodcutter or lumberjack. So the literal translation of Boscaiola sauce would be "woodcutter's sauce", "woodcutter's wife's sauce" or "woodman's pasta". The reason, of course, is because this sauce is always made with earthy mushrooms, which is something the lumberjack would eat very often.
As for many Italian traditional recipes, there are several local variations of Pasta Boscaiola. Some only make it with fresh or dried mushrooms, while some also add bacon or sausage to add extra savoriness to the sauce. Some also add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or peas.
The origins of this dish are in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, where the thick forests and perfect climate produce a large number of wild mushrooms.
The Boscaiola sauce is most commonly eaten with Penne pasta, but it can also be found with other pasta shapes, fresh pasta, or even used with meats like chicken or pork.
- Pasta: Penne are commonly used to make Boscaiola Pasta, but you can use any shortcut pasta shape like Rigatoni, Fusilli, Farfalle, and so on.
- Porcini Mushrooms: Most commonly sold dried, Porcini mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and a delicious addition to any mushroom recipe.
- Wild Mushrooms: Fresh wild mushrooms are often sold in a box with mixed varieties, including Cremini (Baby Bella Mushrooms), Shiitake, Chanterelles, Portobello Mushrooms, Lobster Mushrooms, Morels, Oyster Mushrooms, and more.
- Bacon: I like to use smoked bacon for this recipe, but you can also use regular bacon, pancetta, turkey bacon, or sausage instead.
- Onion: Red onions are more flavorful and work best with mushrooms, but you can also use white or yellow onions.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste will give the sauce a nice tomato taste without adding too much liquid like a tomato sauce would do. Use double or triple concentrato paste for the best result.
- Cream: Use heavy cream or half and half to get a nice creamy sauce.
- Parsley: Fresh parsley will give a fresh and delicious touch to the pasta sauce. You can also use frozen minced parsley.
See the recipe card for quantities.
You can make countless variations to this recipe to suit your taste.
- Sausage - Instead of bacon, use fresh Italian sausage to make the Tuscan variation of Boscaiola sauce. So good!
- Vegetarian - You can also skip the bacon altogether and make a delicious Mushroom sauce. Check also this Wild Mushroom Pappardelle for a similar sauce but without tomato paste, served with homemade pasta.
- Spicy - Add a teaspoon of chili pepper flakes for a spicy kick to the sauce.
- Dairy-Free - Instead of heavy cream, you can use a plant-based cream instead. Choose a mild-flavored one to not overpower the flavors.
📋 Instructions with Photos
Step 1. In a bowl, add the dried porcini mushrooms and cover with hot boiling water. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes at least.
Step 2. In a large pan, add the chopped bacon and minced onion. Sautè on medium heat for a few minutes until the bacon starts to brown.
Step 3. Add the chopped mushrooms, and the tomato paste to the pan. Mix well and cook until the mushrooms are soft.
Step 4. Add the cream and simmer at low heat for a few minutes. Then add the pasta and minced parsley and serve.
❄️ Storage & Reheating
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Reheat in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, adding a little bit of water or milk to make the sauce creamy again.
💭 Recipe FAQs
In Italy, fresh Porcini mushrooms are usually the star of any mushroom recipe. Another very commonly used one is Finferli or Giallarelle, which is the Chantarelle mushroom.
You can use whichever mushroom you can find available in your area. In Fall, between September and October, you should find a greater variety of mushrooms.
If fresh mushrooms are not an option, then you can also use frozen ones. Do not thaw first, or they will lose all the flavorful water. Toss them directly in the sauce and cook it a bit longer than said in the recipe.
You can make the sauce 1-2 days ahead and store it closed in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat in a pan on the stove by adding a bit of water, milk, or cream to make it creamy again. Then add the freshly cooked pasta. Do not cook the pasta in advance or it will become overcooked and mushy.
You can find step-by-step photos, and tips in the post above.
Related Recipes you might like
If you like this recipe, try also these other mushrooms recipes:
If you tried this recipe, please take a moment to rate it and share your thoughts in the comments. Your feedback means a lot to me! ★★★★★
"Penne alla Boscaiola" - Pasta with Mushrooms and Bacon
- 6 oz Penne Pasta
- 0.5 oz Dried Porcini mushrooms, or 70 g (2.5 oz) fresh
- ½ Red Onion
- 4.5 oz Wild Mushrooms, mixed
- 5 oz Bacon, cubed
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- ½ cup Cream
- Add the dried Porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully rehydrated.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Finely chop the onion and add it in a non-stick pan with the cubed bacon. Turn on the heat to medium and fry for 2-3 minutes. The bacon fat should be enough to sauté the onion, but you can add a drizzle of oil if necessary.
- Meanwhile, chop all the mushrooms and then add them to the pan. Add also the tomato paste to caramelize. Cook for 4-5 minutes. All the ingredients should caramelize together but not burn. Regulate the heat accordingly.
- Toss the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain it 1-2 minutes before it’s ready to finish cooking in the sauce.
- Add the cream to the sauce and a few tablespoons of the Porcini water (filter it if necessary). Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Drain the cooked al dente pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce to finish cooking and absorb all flavors. Add more Porcini water if necessary.
- Serve with freshly chopped parsley on top. You can also add some Parmesan cheese and freshly grated black pepper to serve.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.