The Ovolo Mushroom (Amanita Caesarea) is so named because in its early growing stage it resembles a boiled egg. As it grows the white outer skin (or volva) opens and this deep orange cap begins to emerge.
They can grow to be about 15cm tall and have a delightful saffron coloured stem - you can see a hint of that stem in the photo above. The cap can reach 20cm in diameter.
A word of warning, at their "egg stage" they look exactly like their highly poisonous relative, Amanita Muscaria - the difference is only discernable once the cap is revealed. For this reason in Italy, you can only collect ovoli when their caps are showing.
I tried to find these mushroom last year when I was in Italy but failed, however, while in Bologna I fell in love with an Ovolo Mushroom Salad, which made me even more determined to get my hands on them this year. As luck would have it, amongst the many Porcini sellers at the market today, one also had a handful of ovoli available, which dutifully ended up in my possession.
When it came to making something with these Ovoli, the decision was simple - I recreated my much loved salad.
celery stalk and leaves, very finely sliced
red wine vinegar
freshly ground sea salt
freshly ground pepper
Prepare the mushrooms:
You need to cut away the volva and then gently wipe away any dirt and debris with a stiff brush - give it a clean with a damp paper towel.
Slice the mushrooms lengthways very finely.
Make a simple vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil, red wine vinegar and finely sliced celery leaves - season with sea salt and pepper. It's important not to use too much vinegar as this will kill the flavour of the ovoli so make your vinaigrette with a lower portion of vinegar than usual.
Place the sliced ovoli in a bowl along with the slivers of celery and then drizzle over with the dressing - toss gently and scatter over a serving plate. Finish off with shards of shaved parmesan.
If you'd like an even more decadent version of this salad - add in slices of fresh porcini and finish off with shavings of black truffle.