Local Taste

Crazy for mushrooms

King of fall and winter dishes, the Amalfi Coast landscape offers several species of mushrooms, which are parts of many recipes by local chefs.

By Anna Volpicelli, cover photo by Irina Iriser

“The Amalfi Coast, although small, is a land rich in various types of mushrooms,” says Raffaele Mansi, a mycologist from Minori. “Especially the natural and the woods in the innermost areas surrounding Scala, Tramonti, and Ravello.” Thanks to coastal weather conditions, mushroom searching and picking begins in June, although the best times are from September to October. “We have a vast array of porcini mushrooms, including the different species of Boletus and that of the Fragans, which are edible and very good. It’s great to put in oil,” the expert explains.

Good and beneficial

That of Raffaele Mansi, 67, for mushrooms is a deep interest that developed as a young boy. “I was always amused and intrigued to explore the territory to search for and collect mushrooms,” he says, “I was an inspector at the ASL and took a mycology course. Gradually, I became more passionate about it until it became a real job. I, thus, left the profession at the local health agency. For thirteen years, I worked at Salerno’s fruit and vegetable market personally dealing with the certification of mushrooms, continuing to study to specialize more and more.” According to Mansi, the best areas to engage in harvesting are those where fruit chestnuts grow, pine forests, and mixed forests. “In popular culture, usually only the porcini or the Chiodini are harvested, but in reality, many others, even on the coast, are edible. The grufolo frondosa variety, for example, is found at the base of the oak tree. They are excellent mushrooms. Though often mistreated, its anti-cancer properties. It also has a positive effect on blood pressure,” the mycologist points out. During the various exploration missions, there was certainly no shortage of anecdotes. “I was with a group of friends in a forest,” he tells us, “where we met two elderly gentlemen. The two stopped us and told us not to collect that particular type because, according to them, it was poisonous. We explained to them that, on the contrary, it was excellent. They then understood that we were experts and invited us to their private garden to collect more mushrooms.” 

Rice with mushrooms, photo by Jefer Sonurias

In the kitchen

Part of the fall and winter diet, mushrooms go well with pasta dishes, main courses, and pizzas. “I used them once to make a dessert as well,” Mansi says- An experiment consumed with friends. It was a tart with custard and thinly sliced and caramelized porcini mushrooms. Then I added a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon. The result was positive. Nobody complained.” Experienced local chefs use them as an integral part of their menu. At Pizzeria San Francisco in Tramonti, the porcini mushroom is featured on two pizzas. “We have Inverno, a pizza with porcini mushroom cooked first in a pan with oil, a little bit of garlic and salt, and crumbled sausage also cooked in a pan, which is then added to the pizza before it goes into the oven. And then there’s the San Francisco, a fried pizza with creamed porcini mushrooms, walnuts, and dried sausage, dried in the oven at 180 degrees,” says Francesco Maiorano, owner, and pizzaiolo. At Il Chiostro di Amalfi, Vincenzo Mansi includes them in various dishes, from appetizers to main courses. “The recipes also vary based on what I find when I pick them. I propose a carpaccio of ovules, a risotto with chanterelles, I cook them with meat, or, as a side dish, I serve grilled porcini mushrooms,” he says. A simple and traditional cuisine for Elda Olivia, co-owner of Il Pinguino restaurant and pizzeria in Scala. “We use them as ingredients for our recipes,” she explains, “We serve pappardelle with mushrooms as a first course, as a side dish we offer fried chips and mushrooms, and finally on pizza, together with provola cheese, or in Paesana, with porcini mushrooms, provola cheese and chips with the peel. From the land to the table, the mushroom in the cold season becomes the star of local cuisine. 

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