Wild Mushrooms and Cream Pasta

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is something about the cold winter nights that makes me want to warm up with something creamy and woodsy.  Mushrooms and cream pasta are perfect for a cozy dinner in without too much prep time.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of chopped wild mushrooms (pick any combination of your favorites – chanterelles, portobellos, shiitake, crimini… I used crimini here)
  • 2 chopped shallots (or if you want a little extra punch, 1 shallot and 1 small onion, your choice)
  • 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • papardelle egg pasta (the one I used is straight from Trader Joe’s and is AH-Mazing!)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream (don’t freak out, 1/2 a cup for the ENTIRE batch)

Directions:

  • In a medium sauce pan, and using two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, saute shallots (and onion if you use it) until they become transparent.
  • Add mushrooms.  At first glance, it will seem like a ridiculous amount of mushrooms, but don’t worry because they will cook down.  Fold them in with the shallots gently and season to taste.
  • Once the mushrooms have started to release some of their water, add in the garlic.  (WARNING: your kitchen will smell incredible!).  Let this mixture sautee on a medium heat until the mushrooms have cooked down and have become soft.
  • When the mushrooms have cooked down, add the fresh parsley and let the mixture get happy for about a minute.  The goal is to allow the parsley to release some flavor, but not get overcooked.
  • Add in the heavy cream and stir for 2 minutes.  We want to the mushroom flavors to get acquainted with the cream and make one flavorful sauce.  Reseason if necessary.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Cook pasta last so that it doesn’t have a chance to sit around and stick together.  If you have to let one thing sit around longer than the other, let it be the mushrooms and sauce.
  • Combine pasta and mushrooms and serve.

Once combined, the final dish will look like this:

It was so good that it deserved a close up! 🙂

Bon apetit!

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Summer Margarita Pasta

August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is summer and luscious ripe tomatoes are piled up everywhere I turn.  Something about the ripe red tomatoes reminds me of a trip to Italy my husband and I took back when we were still dating and studying abroad.  On our gallop (literally) through Europe, we found ourselves in Naples.  Our time there was short and we were merely passing through, but we found ourselves starving and in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere in particular in the foreign city.

Let me rephrase: we were STARVING!!!! We had just taken a train in and had not seen food in at least 4 hours — I know, the horror!

If this were an ordinary day, I would insist on us walking around and finding a few restaurant options before descending on a chosen eatery.  However, in this hungry moment, we did not care where we were: the first place that would serve us would be the lucky winner of our patronage.

This was the best mistake of my life because the very first place we saw was a tiny hole-in-the-wall half restaurant / half residence with one table and two chairs in the front yard (for lack of a better word).  We ran to those two chairs like our lives depended on it.  There ended up being a legitimate waiter who gave us real menus.

The first thing we saw was “Margarita Pizza” which obviously needs no translation from the Italian.  We pointed at it and within what seemed to be the longest 20 minutes later, we were served the most AMAZING thing I have eaten to date.  I don’t care what five star restaurant you want to compare this to, but we were in heaven.

This dish always reminds me of that trip and that miraculous Napolitan Pizza Margarita.  It is my personal 15 minute homage to that experience.

You will need:

– pasta (I typically use whole wheat, but regular is great too)

– 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

– 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped

– small fresh mozzarella balls

– garlic

– olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

Begin to prepare the pasta.  While it is boiling, combine the tomatoes, basil, and garlic in a heated and oiled skillet.  Add salt and pepper to taste and saute until the tomatoes get happy (I leave it to you to exactly determine what this means, but for me it usually happens when the skins start to gently separate from the rest of the tomatoes).

When the pasta is done, plate it and pour the tomato mixture over it.  While the tomatoes are still hot, throw on a few fresh mozarella balls – they will start to get a little soft and melty, which is divine.  Garnish with basil.

Baked Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Asparagus, Spinach, Zucchini, and Peas

August 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Rotelle whole wheat pasta
  • 1 container Trader Joe’s low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 3 medium zucchini (sliced into 1 inch thick strips)
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 bag of frozen spinach (defrosted and wrung out)
  • 1 cup of fresh peas or frozen peas defrosted
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 pieces of Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sourdough bread
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Zest of lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Homemade or home style ranch dressing (for serving)

Directions:

1.  Preheat your oven to 425º.  Cut the head of cauliflower into 1 inch florets.  Toss the florets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the florets out, in a single layer, on a rimmed baking pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until florets are tender and have browned in spots.

2.  While the cauliflower is cooking, heat a grill pan and grill up the bunch of asparagus and zucchini.  When the asparagus and zucchini is cooked, be careful you still want them to be crisp, set them on a plate to cool.

3.  Cook the pasta according to the packages directions.   Make sure you generously salt the pasta water to add flavor to the pasta.

4.  While the pasta is cooking and the veggies are cooling off, make the crouton crust for the top of the pasta.  In a food processor, combine the bread (tear them into large pieces), chopped parsley, and lemon zest.  Pulse until you have medium sized crumbs.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and pulse 2-3 times to just incorporate the oil.

5.  When the pasta is done cooking, drain the pasta and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water for use later in this recipe.  Put the drained pasta back into the same pot you cooked the pasta in.

6.  To the cooked pasta, add the roasted cauliflower, grilled asparagus and zucchini (cut it into bite sized pieces before adding it into the pot), spinach, peas, red pepper flakes, the reserved pasta water, and the container of low-fat ricotta cheese. Mix until combined.

7.  Add Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

8.  Put the pasta in a large baking dish.  Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake in a 350° oven until the pasta is heated all the way through and the crumb topping has browned (about 30-40 minutes).

I serve ranch dressing on the side for this pasta dish.  If you aren’t obsessive about counting calories, a drizzle of cold ranch dressing on top of this warm summer pasta is heavenly.

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