marcella hazan writes that mushrooms are nature’s own vol au vent.
begging to be filled and bedded and baked together.
these are not flaky bottoms, no, but succulent and earthy with notes of ancient witchiness.
for our most recent feast, i translated this nonna di cucina’s cappelle di funghi ripiene recipe for the radical muffin kitchen. so I omitted the pancetta and anchovies, but I did add the egg, which I think binds the whole thing together and is hazan’s best advice. i also left out the parsley, only because i forgot, and it wasn’t missed.
with just a dry towel, we wiped off about two dozen mushrooms, a mix of cremini and shitake, then chose those with the deepest, sturdiest hollows for stuffing. Any casserole of an accommodating size will work, and we had a wonderful piece: a round shallow, terra cotta casserole with a glazed interior and raw exterior. Sweep your casserole with olive oil and nestle the mushrooms in side by side, touching but not over lapping. You won’t use so many mushrooms – i think a baker’s dozen fit in our pan- so save some for the filling and some for something else wonderful. Unless, of course, you have a huge pan then double the recipe for the filling and have a grand fete…
mince half a red onion and begin sautéing it in a hot fry pan with melted butter, about 4 tablespoons. Use 1/3 cup olive oil if you want less dairy fat. Mince and add 4 or 5 mushroom heads and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. Salt a bit; pepper a bit. Find your zen. When the onions are translucent turn off the heat and add several stripped stems of thyme.
in a bowl, mix together ¼ cup each ricotta cheese, shredded parmesan and bread crumbs. Add a beaten egg then the cooled onion/mushroom mixture along with several shredded leaves of basil. Pack each of the mushroom heads generously with the cheese mixture.
in a smaller bowl, mix about ¼ each of bread crumbs, shredded parmesan, and chopped and whole pine nuts. Sprinkle this over the stuffed shrooms. Dash with paprika if you like. Bake at 375° for half an hour or until the top is beautifully crusted and golden. Partway through baking, it is lovely to splash a little moscato in the pan if you are drinking it anyway. Turn the pan at least once for good measure. Serve to friends just out of the oven or throughout dinner; they sit fairly well.