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i’m just getting started

Recipe: porcini elk sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo

After the eclipse, Jeremy and I gathered Neva and her snacks and drove out to Crested Butte once more before the semester gets underway this week. It’s nice to travel lonely mountain roads again. Most of the summer vacationers are done exploring Colorado’s mountainous western half, leaving it to locals and retirees and full-time nomads. The town of Crested Butte has quieted down, too, such that there is parking along Elk Avenue (the main drag) and nary a hiker on the trails. But there is plenty going on with or without visitors. Lower elevation wildflowers are looking tired and haggard now – the result of showing off for so many weeks, but the high country still holds stunning pockets of wildflowers in late August thanks to regular summer rains. And our summer storms continue to flirt with the sun and create dramatic skies and stunning rainbows. Crested Butte is Rainbowtown.

jeremy and neva above copper lake

the array of wildflowers at 11,700 feet

full double rainbow next to crested butte mountain

a rainbow and sunset lit virga from our deck (where we were grilling dinner)

Handfuls of yellow and red aspen leaves litter the starts of our hikes as if some carefree party goer dropped their celebratory confetti on their tipsy walk home. I’m not posting any photos just yet (although I did shoot some) because I don’t want you summer lovers to start freaking out… But winter is totally coming! Despite the warm sunny days, our mountain evenings have grown nice and cool with morning frost on the neighbors’ rooftops and cars. I sleep with the window open at night and wake in the morning, pulling the covers up around my face and wrapping an arm around Neva as she snuggles cozily between me and Jeremy instead of petitioning for breakfast. I feel as if the ragged pace of summer is coming to an end.

And yet the mushrooms keep happening and I can’t help but look for them. I think Colorado is experiencing an epic king (porcini) season – a very long, widespread, and good flush. Other varieties are doing well, too. I mistakenly expected the chanterelles to go big this month, but I think my previous two seasons were anomalies (the first was very early and the second was really crappy except for one amazing location). They have been all around, but I’m starting to see them come up in earnest now.

hello, my pretties

still on the small side, but looking good

porcini going strong

Summer is my season to slack off from cooking, but all of these mushrooms make me want to get back into the kitchen to try some new recipes. Considering the quantity of porcini I’ve collected, I have loaded up on frozen sautéed slices and dried slices, and still had fresh ones to address. The worst thing you could do as a forager is pluck choice wild mushrooms and allow them to languish in the refrigerator. I fell asleep at night rolling recipe ideas over in my brain that infiltrated my dreams. That’s nothing new, I always dream about food. I had fresh porcini, dried porcini, and elk Italian sausage (a gift from two of my favorite neighbors in Crested Butte, one of whom hunts!) – that screamed pasta to me. Tortellini. Porcini elk Italian sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo (broth) to be precise. I mean, if you’re going to incorporate some hard-to-come-by ingredients, why not make a pasta you’ve never made before? I’ll tell you now, so you don’t have to wonder, it was a complete hit and I served it to my mom for her home-cooked birthday dinner.

When you cook food from scratch, there is an enormous amount of flexibility in the ingredients and flavors you can incorporate. You also have the option of taking shortcuts if you simply don’t have the time or ability to make every component yourself. I say it is all good. The first step is to make the beef stock. It takes a little effort to prep and roast the ingredients, and a lot of time to cook the stock – about 6 hours at barely a simmer. If you cook your own beef stock, start the day before. I was tempted to speed up the process by chucking everything into my pressure cooker, but I wanted to try and make a clear stock this time for aesthetics. Boiling, which is what the pressure cooker does at higher pressure, turns it cloudy. Maybe in the future I’ll go the pressure cooker way, and it is also completely okay to simply purchase beef stock, just get a good quality one.

olive oil, beef chuck, beef marrow bones, carrot, celery tops, onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf


toss the carrots, onions, and beef with olive oil

roast the bones, meat, carrots, and onions

I often wonder about the difference between stock and broth, so I finally looked it up. I could spend a lifetime looking things up on Google (especially since so many people ask me questions that are 100% Googleable). Apparently it is a nuanced difference and most people use the two interchangeably. Stock is made with at least bones and broth is made with at least meat and what the heck does that say about bone broth which seems to be all the rage of late? I think both meat and bones make for a superior stock/broth. The roasting of the bones helps to develop a richer flavor. I totally roasted those bones. The one thing I wasn’t sure about was what temperature to target for my 6-hour low simmer. The recipe I used targets 180°F to 200°F where 212°F is boiling, but this is assuming you are cooking at or near sea-level. At 8500 feet elevation, my water boils at 195°F. I tried to keep my stock at 180°F as it would fall within the absolute temperature range as well as the adjusted temperature range. If you’re not cooking at altitude, just ignore that last part.

You can skim the fat as the stock cooks, but don’t put it down the drain. Instead, empty the skimmed fat and scum into a bowl and allow it to cool and solidify so you can toss it into the trash rather than making an emergency call to a plumber to unclog your kitchen drain. I am a terrible fat skimmer and opted to strain the stock through cheesecloth and chill the stock until the fat solidified at the top. It’s super easy to pick that lid of fat right off and dispose of it.


place everything in a stock pot and fill the water above the bones

after a 6-hour simmer, it smelled heavenly

remove the solids from the pot

You won’t necessarily use all of the beef stock for this recipe (or you could, if you like a lot of soup) and if you don’t, it’s worth freezing and saving for later when you need some beef stock and Present Self realizes Past Self is a total rockstar. Now to the filling. I employed two forms of porcini here: fresh and dried. The two are completely different beasts. Fresh porcini have a mild, delicate, and pleasant earthy taste. Dried porcini smell strongly of mushroom and umami and can feel like a punch in the nose if you aren’t prepared for the intense concentration of awesomeness. You can substitute another fresh mushroom for the fresh porcini, which technically means you are not limited to making this filling during porcini season. If your fresh porcini’s pores are yellow, they could potentially be bitter (cream colored is fine). I find it better to peel the yellow pores off and dehydrate them (you can grind them into a delicious porcini powder). After rehydrating the dried porcini, KEEP THE LIQUID. If you pour it down the drain, all of the mushrooms in the world will weep at your terrible deed! Keep the liquid because you’re going to use it in the brodo with the beef stock. Cook the sausage in bulk or loose. If your Italian sausage came as links, just cut or tear open the casing and empty the filling into your pan.

italian sausage, fresh porcini, eggs, olive oil, parmesan cheese, dried porcini

peeling the yellow pores off the cap slices

diced, uncased, and ready to cook

rehydrate the dried porcini with boiling water

sauté the fresh mushrooms in olive oil

strain the porcini soaking liquid (and keep it)

chop the rehydrated porcini

I learned some things while making the filling and hopefully it will save you some cursing and annoyance if you make this tortellini. Tortellini are really small, which means they can’t hold a lot of filling. If you want large tortellini, those are called tortelloni and they are much bigger. The size of the tortellini (it’s a 2-inch diameter circle of pasta dough) also makes it difficult to fold and accommodate chunky fillings. In hindsight, I think it might be better to combine the mushrooms and run them through the food processor for a few pulses to get a coarse paste – something smooth enough to be easily manipulated in a tiny piece of pasta, but still have enough texture to tell that you are eating mushrooms. And if the sausage came out too chunky, you can give that a quick blitz, too. Just don’t let the sausage turn into a paste reminiscent of fast food taco meat, okay?

ready to mix (or make it smoother with a few pulses in a food processor)

beat the eggs

mix everything together

cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tortellini

With the filling completed, it is time to make some pasta. Pasta recipes always tell me to make a well in the flour on a flat work surface, but it’s a huge mess for me to clean up because flour gets everywhere no matter how careful I am. I find using a large deep, wide-bottom bowl works well to contain the mess. It’s entirely possible that this is a (my) personal problem, so ignore this if you don’t have issues making your own pasta. Homemade pasta is quite easy to bring together, and I’ve learned that just because the flour is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it all. I probably use about 80% of the flour and my dough comes out nice and smooth, but dry to the touch without being crumbly. Go with what feels right and if the dough is too wet or sticky, incorporate a touch of flour until it doesn’t stick anymore. Once the dough is done, wrap it in plastic and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. You can even go a little longer as the gluten relaxes more with time and is easier to handle.

eggs (whole and yolks), salt, semolina flour for dusting, all-purpose flour

mound the flour and make a well in the center, add the eggs, egg yolks, and salt

beat together the ingredients in the well

start folding in the flour from the sides

knead the dough until smooth

When the dough is ready, cut it into quarters and begin working the first quarter. Place the other three under a damp cloth so they don’t dry out. I try to roll my dough out until it is thin enough to read through. I’ve rolled enough pasta by hand to know that 1) I love making pasta from scratch and 2) I don’t want to keep rolling it out by hand. I bought myself a pasta machine (Atlas Marcato 180mm manual pasta maker) last week because this is going to become a thing at our house. For tortellini, you will want a 2-inch circular cutter – preferably a good quality one that doesn’t warp. Or you can cut 2-inch squares with a knife. Both circles and squares will work.

cut dough into quarters

roll the dough out

cut out the circles

Here is where small, adroit fingers come in handy. Each tortellini wrapper will accommodate a half to a full teaspoon of filling depending on how good you are at folding the tortellini. If you are new to this, I suggest starting with a half teaspoon of filling until you are comfortable increasing the volume. You can see from the photos how lumpy fillings can be potentially more difficult to wrap. At this point, you can freeze the tortellini for a later date (instructions in the recipe below) or continue on with the recipe.

wet half of the edge with water

fold the wrapper in half, pushing any air pockets out and sealing the edges together

bring the corners together, the outer rim will crease toward one side

pinch the corners together to seal them

ta da!

enlist other hands and get cracking

In case you didn’t notice, this is a long recipe. But it doesn’t have to be! You can purchase pre-made sausage and mushroom tortellini and beef stock, and then the only thing left to do is make the beef porcini brodo. Most of the better-stocked grocery stores carry dried porcini. Just letting you know your options. Brodo is Italian for broth, and this brodo is a combination of the beef stock, the porcini liquid (aka liquid gold), and some other heady and tasty ingredients. When I first made this dish, I strained the sautéed shallots out of the brodo, but have subsequently left the shallots in after determining that they add a nice little boost of extra flavor.

Reduce the beef porcini brodo until it reaches the desired concentration. Since it’s hard to know how strong your beef stock and porcini liquid are to start with, you will have to make that call for yourself. I’ll admit that the first time I tasted the brodo, I thought it was a little sour. But once I had it with the tortellini, it all balanced out perfectly. While the brodo reduces, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the tortellini, about four minutes for the fresh tortellini and maybe five to six minutes for the frozen. Drain the pasta and divvy them among your serving bowls.

for the brodo: olive oil, beef broth, porcini liquid, soy sauce, sherry, white wine, shallots, salt, and pepper (not used)

sauté the shallots in olive oil

add the remaining ingredients and simmer

ladle the brodo over the pasta

When some people think of tortellini, they perhaps expect a bowl loaded with the little filled pastas. This is not that tortellini. I’d say you could get away with as few as six for a starter course or up to 12 or 15 for a heavier course. The tortellini need not swim in the brodo, merely wade. These little packages of flavor are not meant to be shoveled, but savored. That elk roamed the same mountains from which these porcini were gathered. And think of the effort that went into constructing this dish. I look forward to enjoying this come wintertime when the tortellini will transport me to the fruits of summer and fall from my own backyard mountains.

garnish for color

tortellini in a baby pool of flavor

each pasta a hearty little bite

hidden treasures within

Porcini Elk Sausage Tortellini in Beef Porcini Brodo
[print recipe]

I recommend making the beef stock the day before. Or you can use store-bought beef stock or beef broth.

beef stock
from Simply Recipes
1 lb. beef stew meat (I used beef chuck), cut into 2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, cut into 2-inch pieces
2-3 tbsps olive oil
2.5 lbs. beef marrow bones
1/2 cup boiling water
handful of celery tops (or 1-2 celery stalks cut into 2-inch pieces)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
handful fresh Italian or flat-leaf parsley, stems and leaves
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the beef, onion, carrot, and olive oil together in a medium bowl until everything is coated in olive oil. Place the bones, beef, carrots, and onions in a shallow roasting or baking pan and roast for 45 minutes, turning the meat and bones over after 25 minutes, until the meat and bones are nicely browned (but not burnt). Place everything from the roasting pan into a large stock pot. Pour a half cup of boiling water into the roasting pan and scrape any fond (browned bits) from the pan. Pour the liquid and the fond into the stock pot along with the celery tops, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns.

Fill the pot with water to 2 inches above the bones and set the pot over high heat. At this point you can attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot or use an instant read thermometer to measure the temperature as needed. When the liquid begins to simmer, reduce the heat, loosely cover the pot with the lid, and maintain the temperature between 180°F to 200°F for 3-6 hours (the longer the better). Do not allow the stock to boil and do not stir the pot if you want your stock to be clear (otherwise it will be cloudy). Skim any scum off the surface. When the stock is done, carefully remove the solids from the pot. Strain the stock through cheesecloth or a very fine mesh sieve into a large vessel and let cool. Once the stock has reached room temperature, chill it in the refrigerator. The fat should rise to the top and solidify. Discard the fat. Makes about 3 quarts.

porcini and italian sausage filling
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups boiling water
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage (you can purchase links and remove the meat from the casings)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh porcini (or other) mushrooms, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsps fresh Parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp salt

Place the dried porcini in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over the porcini and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the sausage over medium high heat in a small pan. Drain the sausage on paper towels. Set aside. Wipe the small pan with a paper towel. Pour olive oil into pan and heat over medium flame. When the oil is hot, add the fresh porcini and sauté until cooked. Remove from heat and set aside. Squeeze the rehydrated porcini of excess liquid over its bowl, then pour the porcini soaking liquid through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a vessel. DO NOT THROW OUT THE PORCINI SOAKING LIQUID – save it for the brodo. Place the sautéed and rehydrated mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until it is no longer chunky, but a rough paste. In a medium bowl, stir the sausage, mushroom paste, eggs, cheese, and salt together. Cover and refrigerate for up to a day ahead until ready to use. Makes 3-4 cups.

egg pasta
from Serious Eats
10 oz. all-purpose flour
semolina flour for dusting (I didn’t need any)
2 whole large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp kosher salt

Pour the flour into a mound on a work surface or a large, flat-bottomed bowl. Make a 4-inch diameter well in the center of the mound. Place the eggs, egg yolks, and salt in the well. Beat the eggs with a fork and gradually incorporate more flour from the sides of the well until you achieve a sticky dough. Fold more flour into the dough using your hand, a fork, or a bench scraper, turning the dough 45° each time until it is firm and dry and looks like a shaggy ball. Knead the dough for 2-5 minutes until it is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes.

beef and porcini brodo
adapted from Epicurious
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
4 cups beef stock
2 cups porcini soaking liquid from the filling recipe, strained of any dregs
1 cup white wine
4 tbsps sherry (don’t use cooking sherry)
1 tsp soy sauce
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until translucent. Add the beef stock, porcini liquid, wine, sherry, and soy sauce to the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to an active simmer and allow the liquid to reduce by 20 percent or until the brodo tastes about right to you. Season with salt to taste. You can either keep the brodo warm over low heat if your tortellini is almost ready to serve, or you can refrigerate the cooled brodo and reheat it right before serving. Makes about 7 cups.

Roll the dough: Cut the dough into quarters. Place three of the quarters under a damp cloth and work with the remaining quarter on a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough to 1/2-inch thickness and begin rolling it out evenly (away from you). Roll to 1/16-inch thickness (applies to hand-rolled or machine rolled pasta). Cut 2-inch circles using a biscuit cutter (or cut 2-inch squares) and keep under plastic. Wad the scraps together, wrap in plastic, and allow to rest before re-rolling.

Wrap the tortellini: Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of a dough wrapper. Dip your finger in water and wet the edge of half of the circle. Fold the wrapper in half such that the dry edge matches with the wet edge and press the edges together, pushing any air pockets in the center out. Bring the two corners of the semicircle together so they overlap. With the tip of your finger, wet one of the corners, press the other corner on top of that corner, and seal the tortellini. Repeat for the remaining dough, including the scraps. Makes about 8 dozen tortellini.

Freezing the tortellini: If you aren’t cooking your tortellini the same day, you can freeze them for later use. Arrange the tortellini in a single layer, not touching, on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper. Place the sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the tortellini in a ziploc bag, squeeze as much as out as possible, label, and freeze.

Cook the tortellini: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop fresh or frozen tortellini in the water and allow to boil for at least 4 minutes (a little longer for the frozen). They are ready when the pasta is al dente. Drain and arrange in bowls. Ladle some brodo into each bowl and serve hot. Serves 6-8.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

chanterelle ravioli with sage brown butter handmade pappardelle lasagne (db) porcini mushroom lasagne

10 nibbles at “i’m just getting started”

  1. Ellie's friend from Canada says:

    I really enjoy your hiking/mountain photos. And your recipes are great. I can hardly wait to try some of these!

  2. Nan says:

    I grew up on homemade noodles and pasta. I remember spending hours on a Saturday afternoon, rolling out paper-thin pasta and noodle dough with my mother and grandmother — cutting and drying different interpretations for Sunday lunch. It’s one of those visceral memories of my mother and I working together in the kitchen. I carried on the tradition with my daughter but made the endeavor much easier with the purchase of my first food Cuisinart processor and an Atlas Marcato I picked up on sale 20 years ago — two of the best purchases I’ve ever made that are still going strong. There’s something so satisfying about making and serving your own pasta from scratch! Nothing so comforting on a cold winter Sunday than a plate of steaming beef and noodles; tender beef, carrots, onion, delicious broth and noodles cooked in that broth. Wonderful! Tortollini is on my list and your recipe is the one I’ll use. Thanks Jen!

  3. Kristin says:

    Your tortellini are adorable and so professional looking. I am inspired! I love the connection between the elk and the mushrooms too. I am trying not to get annoyed easily anymore (except by things that matter, like what is happening in our government), but the whole bone broth thing definitely makes me shake my head. Have many of us not been making “bone broth” for years? Though to be honest, I always have chicken broth in the freezer, but haven’t made beef broth since middle school home ec. It does look like a good project for a fall weekend!

  4. angelitacarmelita says:

    Jen, your photos of the rainbows are stunning… and of course, I am a complete sucker for mushroom shots. I have to confess that your finished bowl looks so beautiful, but the greedy-girl in me thought “huh?, that’s not enough!” what a beautiful labor of love, your such a good daughter. I had to laugh at “all the mushrooms in the world will weep” comment because I could not agree more about that liquid gold! In fact, it’s the secret ingredient in my beef-barley mushroom soup…

  5. Mary Karen says:

    Oh Jen, what a stunning dish so beautifully captured on film. And the Crested Butte pix make my heart soar…especially the chanterelles! ;-) Works of art, all!

  6. jill hyde says:

    What a lovely read! The virga, carefree party goer, weeping mushrooms, and the elk roaming the same mountains… beautiful, Jen! I’m wondering if this was an entree for the birthday dinner for your mom, or an appetizer. The details of this recipe and its preparation. I know she knows how much she is loved! Enjoy the end of summer! xoxo, jill

  7. farmerpam says:

    I had to laugh about the bone broth, I had a friend recently call to ask how to make “bone broth”…”it’s a fancy name for soup stock”, was my reply. Your photos of making pasta reminded me of childhood days at my Grandma’s, watching a pile of flour on the table be transformed into a lump of dough that everyone around would help shape and form. Your dish is a true labor of love, a special dish for a special occasion, for sure. Frost already? These New England mountains are starting to show off some orange and red leaves here and there, but no frost. Bring it I say! ;)

  8. Ashton says:

    Gorgeous. This is my kind of food. I love nothing more then spending a quiet afternoon folding pasta. One of my favorite tortellini recipes is a simple ricotta and spinach tortellini in a light tomato broth with oil poached cherry tomatoes as garnish!

  9. lilly says:

    mmmm…i can almost taste it! do you dry your own dried porcini mushrooms? if so, how? love coming to enjoy your recipes. thanks!

  10. jenyu says:

    Ellie’s friend – Thank you!

    Nan – Wow, I shall endeavor to turn pasta making into a good memory like you have! How fun and wonderful. I think it’s a lot like my memories of the way my grandma and parents made dumpling dough and dumplings from scratch :)

    Kristin – Thanks, I try my best not to post terrible looking food here ;) But yeah, when I started noticing “bone broth” branding on what had always been “broth” I figured it was for all those hipsters suddenly discovering broth. I also keep tons of homemade chicken broth in the freezer, but now I’ll start keeping a little beef broth, too!

    angelitacarmelita – To be fair, this was not a main course, but a “pasta” course. Also, a giant plate of tortellini would take me forever to make by hand! ;) And yes, I LOVE to add the porcini broth to beef barely soup – so good!

    MK – Thank you, dear! xo

    Jill – Ha ha, it was one of many courses or else my dad would have been asking for extra dessert ;)

    farmerpam – Grandmas are the best, aren’t they? I have similar memories of my grandma making dumplings. Makes me wonder if fewer people today are getting these special lessons in food/cooking/family? I think fall is getting started – woohoo! xo

    Ashton – Wow, I should enlist your help if you love folding pasta!! :)

    lilly – Yes! I dry my own porcini. You can oven- or sun-dry the porcini slices until all of the moisture is gone. It’s easy to do here where our humidity is quite low and the sun is very strong. Make sure the mushrooms are clean, then slice them about 1/4-inch thick and lay them in a single layer on a large window screen out in the sun (I put another screen on top to keep them from blowing away). It sometimes takes me two days of full on sun to get them dry. For the oven, it helps to use convection/drying setting, but a low temperature like 125°F for 8+ hours with the door slightly ajar (to let moisture escape) works well for me. When the pieces are dry (they break with a crack, no soft spots), I pop them into a large canning jar and sometimes throw a little bag of desiccant in there (saved from noodle packets, etc.).

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