I know I have told you before, but sometimes a food item, particularly a veggie, can get kind of forgotten in my refrigerator. I think it’s because I am always trying new recipes and I focus on the new ingredients to the shameful neglect of what came before. And that’s exactly what happened when I recently discovered 4 very large button mushrooms lurking at the bottom of my vegetable bin. Poor things; they looked absolutely pathetic just lying there, stem side up in their very own blue polystyrene container from Costco. So what to do with these mushrooms? The frugal cook in me just could not throw them to the Gods of yard-waste. They simply did not deserve that fate! And although I know that mushrooms lose their potency over time, they weren’t slimy, so I considered that good enough.
But then, what to do with them? Well, the same thing I almost always do with an ingredient that needs to be surrounded by compatible flavors to make it more enjoyable. I make a pasta dish.
So that’s exactly what I did, and the recipe below is the result. And all hubris aside, this recipe is very, very good. Easy too! And vegetarian, if you use vegetable stock, which is my first choice for this pasta. (The dish actually tastes a lot like a meatless beef stroganoff.)
So if you need an easy recipe for a weeknight pasta dish your entire family will enjoy, pick yourself up some button mushrooms and put some pasta water on to boil. But remember: don’t cook your pasta ahead of time. If need be, make the sauce wait for your freshly cooked al dente pasta.
You know, now that I mention cooked pasta, I should provide you with my own guidelines for what I consider to be perfectly cooked pasta.
So for those of you who were not born knowing the fine nuances surrounding perfection in pasta cooking, I have listed the steps below. For those of you who already know how to cook perfect pasta, or were born with the knowledge, (like that could ever happen), just ignore my well thought out, well written, and helpful instructions!
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- kosher Salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 lg. or 4 very lg. button mushrooms, cut in half and thinly sliced
- ¼ c. dry white wine
- ¼ c. vegetable, beef, or chicken stock
- ½ c. sour cream
- ¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 oz. pasta, cooked al dente
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender and starting to brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine and cook until all the liquid evaporates. Add the stock and simmer for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the sour cream. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water, and add the drained pasta to the sauce. Add the Parmesan. Adjust seasoning. (If the pasta seems too dry, add a small amount of the reserved pasta water.) Serve immediately.
Note: This is the perfect amount for 2 hungry adults. The recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed.
1) Use pasta which contains at least some semolina flour
2) Use a large cooking pot
3) Add cold water (1 lb. pasta = 5-6 quarts of water) to the pot
4) Cover the pot and bring the water to a rolling boil.
5) Add kosher salt (about 1-2 tablespoons per pound of pasta)
6) Add the pasta all at once
7) Stir immediately with a wooden spoon to prevent the pasta from sticking together and to the bottom of the pan
8) Bring the water back to a boil as quickly as possible. Then reduce the heat only enough to prevent the water from boiling over on to your stove top. Do not cover the pan.
9) Continue to periodically stir the pasta so that it cooks evenly
10) DO NOT RELY ON THE PACKAGE INSTRUCTIONS FOR ACCURATE COOKING TIME. Taste testing is the only way to know when the pasta is al dente. (Al dente means “to the tooth” in Italian and refers to the fact that the pasta has a slight resistance when you bite into it. The pasta doesn’t have a hard center, nor is it soft.)
11) If you are using the pasta for a hot dish with a sauce (like this recipe), save about a cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta (don’t rinse) and add it to the sauce and serve immediately. (Or you can place the hot pasta on a plate or in a serving bowl or platter and immediately cover with sauce.)
12) If you are using the pasta for a cold dish (like my recipe for Shrimp and Macaroni Salad or Tuna Macaroni Salad), drain the pasta and immediately rinse with cold water. (Rinsing the pasta serves to both stop the cooking process and remove the thin coating of starch that can cause it to be sticky when cold. This method also works well for lasagna noodles.)