Pasta Boscaiola – Creamy Mushroom & Bacon Sauce
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Pasta alla boscaiola, aka “Woodman’s Pasta”, is a classic Tuscan Italian sauce made with smoky bacon, earthy mushrooms, tomatoes and cream, creating the ultimate Italian comfort food! It’s a rich, creamy sauce that pairs perfectly with a hearty, thick pasta, like pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine.
This easy homemade recipe for boscaiola sauce comes together in under an hour and is sure to impress your family and friends!
One of my favorite ways to come up with new recipes is by taking restaurant favorites and recreating them at home. This is exactly what I did with this Boscaiola Sauce!
Our favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego is Buona Forchetta. They have the most incredible pizzas, homemade pastas and sauces! We actually love their food so much that we hired them to cater our wedding! Our favorite dish to order at the restaurant is their homemade pasta with boscaiola sauce.
Up until eating at Buona Forchetta, I had never heard of boscaiola sauce, but when the sweet Italian waiter described the sauce with his heavy Italian accent, I couldn’t say no. “It’s a rich, creamy sauce with mushroooms and bacon.” I mean, what’s not to like about that?
We’ve since eaten that pasta dish over a dozen times and every time we take friends and family to the restaurant, we insist they try it as well. So far, we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews!
After purchasing a new pasta maker (which I’m totally obsessed with!!) and making ALL THE PASTA, I decided to try making my favorite sauce to pair with my fresh, homemade pasta!
After trying out a few different versions of this sauce, it is now PERFECT! It’s one of my top 5 favorite recipes ever and was the #2 most popular new recipe on the blog in 2020!
I’ve started making this sauce almost every week. I’ve made it for friends and family, and everyone is blown away by the amazing flavor of this pasta sauce!
Don’t let the fancy Italian name intimidate you, this sauce is easy to make and downright delicious! You don’t have to have fresh, homemade pasta to make this dish either, just a thick, hearty noodle like fettuccine, pappardelle or tagliatelle.
Table of contents
Step by step instructions
- Fry the bacon. Dice thick sliced bacon into small pieces. Add the bacon to a large pot on the stove over medium high heat. Cook, stirring regularly, for 5-7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pot and place it in a paper-towel lined bowl. The paper towel will help to soak up the grease.
- Quick Tip! Diced pancetta can be used in place of bacon.
- Cook the mushrooms in the bacon grease. After removing the bacon from the pot, add one pound of fresh sliced mushrooms to the pot with the bacon grease. I use one pound of baby bella, or crimini mushrooms to make this recipe. You can use a mix of any mushrooms you’d like! They’re the star of this sauce, and where the sauce gets it’s name, so be sure to load it up with a pound of your favorite mushrooms!
- Add onions, garlic and thyme. Once the mushrooms have cooked down for about 8 minutes, add sliced onions, minced garlic and fresh thyme leaves to the pot. Saute for about 6 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and wine. Puree a large can of whole tomatoes in a blender or food processor, then add the pureed tomatoes to the pot, along with white wine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Simmer the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then lower the heat on the stove to maintain a bare simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Boil the pasta. In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove over high heat. Add one pound of pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, or firm to the bite. Remove one cup of the cooking water from the pasta and set it aside before draining the pasta. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
- Finish the sauce. Add frozen peas, heavy cream and the previously cooked bacon to the sauce. Stir to combine. If you feel the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved cooking water from the pasta. I recommend adding no more than 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until you reach the desired consistency of the sauce.
- Serve the pasta. Remove the pasta alla boscaiola from the heat and stir in fresh chopped Italian parsley and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Serve with additional parmesan cheese on the side for grating over each plate of pasta boscaiolia.
What is the difference between carbonara and boscaiola?
While carbonara and boscaiola sauces both start with a base of bacon or pancetta, and are finished with parmesan cheese, everything added in the middle of the sauce is different.
A carbonara sauce is made with eggs and black pepper, whereas boscaiola sauce is made with mushrooms, tomatoes and heavy cream.
How do you thicken the sauce?
Every time I’ve made this recipe, I’ve never had an issue with it being too thin. If you happen to add too much of the pasta cooking water or find that the sauce is too thin for you taste, you can thicken the sauce by adding a slurry of flour and water. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon flour with 1 tablespoon water and add it to the sauce.
Make sure to never add a slurry to the sauce before adding the pasta to the sauce. The starch from the pasta will thicken the sauce. Only if after adding the pasta to the sauce, if you still find it too thin, should you add a thickener, such as a flour + water slurry.
What kind of mushrooms should I use?
As I mentioned above, I used fresh baby bella mushrooms in this recipe, as they’re the easiest mushrooms to find fresh, year-round at grocery stores in America.
This dish originated in Tuscany during the Fall months when fresh, foraged mushrooms would fill the markets. Most commonly, porcini and chanterelles were used to make this dish. If you can get your hands on some different varieties of fresh mushrooms at a speciality market or farmers market, I highly recommend using some of them in this sauce!
You can also purchase dried porcini mushrooms and rehydrate them in the white wine for this recipe. To do so, simply soak the mushrooms in the white wine for 30 minutes, then drain the mushrooms using a fine mesh strainer and reserve the white wine to add to the sauce later. Add the rehydrated porcini mushrooms, along with any other fresh mushrooms that you’ll be using in the sauce, to the bacon grease and cook according the the recipe instructions.
What to serve with it
This pasta dish is rich and hearty, and can simply be served with a warm baguette for soaking up any extra delicious sauce at the bottom of your bowl! If you want to serve the pasta with a side dish, check out of of these delicious Italian recipes!
- Roasted Garlic Parmesan Broccolini
- Cheesy Garlic Bread Nachos
- Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- Classic Panzanella Salad
- Italian 5 Layer Dip
More pasta recipes to try
Looking for more delicious pasta recipes? Check out these blog favorites!
- Italian Sausage Shells and Cheese
- Cheesy Basil Pesto Pasta
- One Pot Tuscan Shrimp Scampi Pasta
- Sweet Potato Ravioli
- Three Cheese Manicotti with Italian Sausage Marinara
- Easy Bolognese Meat Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes
- Caprese Pasta
Pasta alla Boscaiola
- 6 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 cup onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 28 ounce can peeled whole tomatoes and their juices, puréed in a blender or food processor
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound pasta noodles, pappardelle, fettuccine or tagliatelle
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup peas
- ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
- In a Dutch oven or large sauté pan on the stove, cook the chopped bacon over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned, about 5-7 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate or bowl and set aside.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan with the bacon fat and return to medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes
- Add the onion, garlic, and thyme to the pan and sauté for 5-6 minutes
- Add the puréed tomatoes and white wine.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain a bare simmer.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Drain pasta, reserving about one cup of the pasta-cooking water.
- Add the cream to the pasta sauce along with the peas, drained pasta and cooked bacon.
- Bring to a simmer, adding reserved pasta-cooking water as needed to thin the sauce, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
- I recommend adding no more than 1-2 tablespoons of cooking water at a time.
- After the sauce reaches your desired consistency, remove the pasta and sauce from the heat and stir in the parsley and cheese.
- Serve additional parmesan cheese on the side for grating over the plated pasta.
- Fresh Mushrooms: I used one pound of baby bella mushrooms to make this dish. Porcini mushrooms, chanterelle mushrooms or any fresh mushrooms you can find will all work in this recipe.
- Pasta: I recommend a thick, hearty pasta to go with this sauce, such as pappardelle, tagliatelle or fettuccine, but feel free to use the pasta of your preference.
- Bacon: Diced pancetta can be used in place of the bacon, if you’d like.
- Vegetarian: To make this recipe vegetarian, omit the bacon and use 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in place of the bacon fat to sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic.
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