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Mushrooms & Truffles

Italians are moderately crazy for funghi or mushrooms, above all in pasta sauces. Many dishes with wild mushrooms will be called alla boscaiola (forester style). Usually, these will be porcini mushrooms (ceps) a national icon, and a good restaurant will tell you whether they are freschi or secchi (dried). Funghi trifolati in the antipasto are mushrooms marinated in oil, garlic and parsley. Al funghetto 'cut like a mushroom', means thinly sliced.

The cultivated mushroom is nearly always agaricus bisporus. Picked young, it's a champignon, the common, white 'button' mushroom sold in every supermarket. Italians call it by a French name because the French first learned how to cultivate them properly, over 300 years ago.

Now a great mushroom secret will be revealed. In certain varieties of the same species, the cap turns brown and you have cremini. And if you leave them until they get really dark and the caps open, they're portobelli (an Italian-American term only now becoming common in Italy). These are great for stuffing. But it's all the same mushroom.

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls