Lovely Linda's Mystical, Magical Mushroom Sauce
Magical Mushrooms

When Sunday supper was served in my family’s home, someone had to drive to Owasco to pick up Gramma Lena. The first thing that came out of her mouth upon crossing the threshold was usually a question directed at my father. With her gnarled arthritic finger pointing up at him from her 4’7” perspective,  she would ask in her gravelly cigarette chafed voice:

“Nicky... did you make my mushrooms?”

My Gramma’s favorite “Primo Dish”; Basically sauteed Portabella mushrooms in shallots, garlic, olive oil, and butter with a wine reduction served with Italian bread for dunking purposes.  Along with bottomless glasses of Prosecco, this appetizer and it’s complimentary companion Roasted Red Pepper Salad, was and still is, the main knosh in the Rossi house before dinner proper actually commences.  

Alice and the Caterpillar
This gilled, spore bearing fungus among us is so misunderstood. They have truly gotten a bad rap. The ancient Egyptians thought mushrooms to be the food of immortality, fit only for the consumption of Royalty; their consumption prohibited among the general population. In the late 19th century, Englishman William Delisle Hay actually coined the phrase “Fungophobic” in describing the national fear of mushrooms, perhaps because the Druids used psychoactive types in ancient rituals. Mushroom Hunting in Victorian England was to be considered the lowliest of hobbies. They grow in the dark, and creepily appear fully formed out of nowhere, overnight. Toads sit upon them waiting for unsuspecting flies to be snatched out of thin air with retractable whipping tongues, consigning their clueless insect prey to an immediate and gruesome end. Gnomes use them as umbrellas. Lewis Carroll’s immortal character Alice ate them to alter and adjust perspective and “height”. and so did drug addled counter-culturalists. Atomic Bomb blasts produce “mushroom clouds”. A small percentage of the species are deadly poisonous ... they are darkly mystic, and associated with the dark arts.

The ancient Egyptians (and Gramma Lena, for that matter) may have been onto something, however. They are chock full of  B vitamins and minerals; including anti-oxidants like Selenium and Ergothioneine. They are natural cancer battling Aromatase inhibitors, and contain Angiogenesis inhibitors; inhibiting the formation of additional blood vessels required to feed extra fat cells and mutant cancer cells in tumors. They battle cancers and keep you thin at the same time!

If Ponce De Leone ever did discover the Mythic “Fountain of Youth”, the banks of the fountain would be lined with thousands of this edible fungi.

Fountain of Youth
This painting by Austrian artist Eduard Veith shows a scene at the mythical Fountain of Youth.
This sauce recipe is actually a creation of Momma Linda’s, Poppa Nick’s wife of 57 years and counting; hence its whimsical name. Pops has refined it over the years, and now we reveal the secret family alchemy to share it, and its magical properties, with you.

When Pops and I are putzing around the kitchen cooking up a batch of “Lovely Linda’s Mystical Magical Mushroom Sauce”, I sometimes prattle off some of the nutritional benefits, the surrounding science, and folkloric anecdotes associated with its main ingredient.

Quite frankly, Primo could care less about the endless chatter spewing forth from my ever churning cranial filing cabinet of pointless mushroom knowledge. As he narrows his focus and total concentration on the perfect rendition of this dish, he knows one thing: This sauce has some very deep primordial triggers, and it’s his responsibility for delivering that experience to his  family and guests. He transforms himself into a perfect mix of mad scientist and a  little Italian-American version of an ageless Keebler elf in perpetual motion.

Gaia by Anselm Feuerbach
The Goddess of the Earth, Gaia, is clearly part of the proceedings; Her presence felt strongly in the finished dish. As is Poppa Primo’s ultimate goal with all his culinary output in the family kitchen,  the magical mystical mushroom sauce has the ability to take you back in time into the cradle of all creation with its dark, earthy tones. This is the food of Mother Earth.

He suffers me gladly as I rattle off the healthful benefits and factoids on mushrooms, though. Diverting his attention for just a moment, he’ll muse matter-of-factly:

“All from a little vegga-ta-bull that grows in piles of shit in the dark of night.... How great is THAT?”

That’s his forever optimistic version of “Every Cloud has a Silver Lining” I suppose.

“Now is the time to taste the test of time, and the test of nature... all in a liddle dish; HA!!!!”  ~  Poppa “Primo” Nick Rossi.


ingredients32oz of thickly sliced (about ¼ inch) Large White Button Mushrooms, separated in 8oz piles.

1 cup of Filippo Berio Medium Grade Olive Oil*

12 oz of Butter, cut into 3oz quarters

Salt and freshly ground black Pepper

1 good sized shallot, finely chopped

10 healthy large cloves of fresh garlic, minced through a press.

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup of unseasoned bread crumbs

15oz of Chicken Stock

1 cup Imported Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, fresh and finely grated.*

½ cup Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, washed, towel dried, and finely chopped by hand*

1 lb Linguine Pasta

* Remember: Ingredients MAKE THE DISH. There is no substitute for real imported Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, the right grade and quality of olive oil, fresh garlic, and properly prepped, fresh Italian flat leaf parsley. Make substitutions at your own peril, because if you do, it just won’t come out right.

Extra Gear: A blender

The Steps

Prep and Sautee the “Shroomies”

The Mystical, Magical Mushroom Tour starts in the Mystic Frying Pan. Buckle Up, Campers!

  1. melt the butter in the oilClean and slice enough mushrooms to end up with 32oz in total and separate into four 8oz piles; or do what Primo does to save some prep time. Buy 4, 8oz containers pre-sliced. That’s a little more expensive, but it saves a whole lot of time!
  2. Tricky Nicky’s Magic Trick is to sautee FOUR separate batches of mushrooms and throw them together sequentially in what he calls, the “Marriage” or “Mother” Pot ( A receptacle that should be oven safe ). There’s a very specific reason why he does this:

    shroom pourYou cannot, under any circumstances, “Crowd the mushrooms”.  In Primo’s through -the- looking glass-world where vegga-ta-bulls have a personality and a soul, Mushroom slices need their personal and individual space. They have delicate constitutions, and a sense of entitlement, and therefore must be treated with the respect that they so richly deserve. As he says; “They can’t be magical unless they’re loose!”

    In a large sautee pan, over medium heat, pour ¼ cup of olive oil and add a 3oz  chunklette of butter. Get it warmed up, melt the butter, and place 8oz of mushrooms flat side down in the pan, with each slice making full contact with the pan surface. NO STACKING! This will critically affect the ultimate presentation of the dish if you try to cheat.

    PeppahAs the mushrooms are sauteeing on one side, lift a few up and sneak a peek; look for for a “nice firm, brown edge” on the sautee side of a slice of ‘shroomie. Keep checking those slices for browning, and the topsides for evidence of translucence.
  3. As they are browning on one side, liberally grind pepper over the  “shroomies”.
  4. When they are perfectly golden brown edged, flip each slice... Individually! Each one has to be absolutely perfectly golden, and each uncooked side of a slice must again make full contact with the pan surface.
  5. the hole with shallotSprinkle the “shroomies” with a dash of salt at this stage. That will sweat out the remaining water.
  6. When the “shroomies” are perfectly rendered, push them to the sides of the pan, creating a “hole” in the center of the pan.
  7. Put ¼ of the chopped shallot in the hole, and sweat the shallots for approximately 1 minute.
  9. NickPut ¼ of the minced garlic in the “hole”, and slowly bring the heat back up to “low-medium”.... if you burn the garlic, you’ve just wasted a whole lot of time, work ,and not to mention a whole lot of “shroomies”.
  10. The Garlic will separate and “Bloom like a Chrysanthemum” in the “hole”
  11. When the garlic is at its full release point, or “flower” in the pan’s center, pour in ¼ cup of dry white wine, and jack the heat up to high.
  12. As the alcohol burns off, get close to the pan and check with your nose and sense of smell. If you smell an acrid alcohol aroma, you still have a way to go.... wait until you can smell the rich blend of aromas, without it assaulting your nasal passages.

    Once that alcohol is completely burned off, toss your 1st batch into the oven safe “Marriage” or “Mother” Pot, and repeat this process three more times until all 32oz’s of “shroomies” are perfectly rendered.  

PHEW! Are we having fun yet?

Final Assembly: “If It Walks like a Duxelle, and Talks Like a Duxelle....You Need to Employ A Little Blender Magic”

While constantly stirring over NO HEAT:

  1. Pour 15oz of Chicken Stock in the “Mother” Pot.
  2. Gently fold in your breadcrumbs... you may not need a whole cup, because it will thicken quickly depending on how much liquid you ended up with.
  3. Toss in 1 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  4. Put approximately ⅓ of the total volume of “Shroomie mixture” into a blender.
  5. Pulse three or four times until fully blended.
  6. Add blended mixture back into the “Mother Pot”

    You now have a duxelle; a combination of blended material for full pasta coverage and maximum mushroom flavor bang, and beautiful whole slices of ‘shroomies sauteed to a rich golden brown swimming in a thickened sea of yummiosity.
  7. Finish the sauce by adding most of the finely chopped fresh parsley, leaving a little aside for presentation purposes.
  8. Check for salt and pepper adjustments to personal taste, cover, and keep warm in an oven set to its lowest temperature. Primo sets his at 125 degrees, but  the “Warm” setting should be just fine.

Boil Yer Swimmers

While you are assembling the final stages of the sauce, your pasta water should be boiling at the ready. Pasta water should be “as salty as the sea”. Don’t underdo the salt!

Cook your pasta to “Al Dente” status, drain thoroughly, and put back in your pasta pot

Plate It  and Serve It Up!

  1. Ladle a liberal amount of sauce (About ⅓ rd of the total volume) onto the pasta and toss well
  2. Plate a serving of pasta
  3. Dole out another smaller ladling of sauce on top of the serving. Make sure to get plenty of whole ‘shroomie slices!
  4. Dust with remaining chopped Parsley (“The Mountain Greenery”) and another pinch or two of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese (“Snow On The Mountain Top”) and serve immediately.

For one brief shining moment, as you and your guests quietly savor the flavor, remember: You are now eating the food of the Goddess Gaia, and in that moment, you will fleetingly experience the feeling of being immortal.

Fleeting, yes, but well worth seeking, and seeking repetitively.

Mangia Bene!

[Watch the Video Tutorial for "Rossi's Lovely Linda's Mystical, Magical Mushroom Sauce"]

Lovely Linda's Mystical, Magical Mushroom Sauce
“Respect the Mushroom”~ Poppa Primo