Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pasta with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce

3/4 ounce dried porcini - not much! But a little goes a long way. 
Besides making spaghetti & meatballs in honor of the romantic dinner in The Lady and The Tramp at my Tuesday night class, we made this vegetarian pasta. Mushrooms have a meaty texture and a rich flavor, so they stand in for meat quite nicely here. We add a small amount of dried wild mushrooms - porcini, specifically - to enhance the flavor even more. The dried porcini are expensive (it was a date night theme, after all) but you don't need much. The flavor they bring is really special. The students thought the pasta smelled and tasted divine. So, for your next splurge, get yourself some dried porcini and make this pasta. If you want to economize, you can make this without the dried mushrooms. Won't be quite as tasty but still good.

We used Baby Bella fresh mushrooms (aka cremini) because they have a deeper flavor but plain white mushrooms will work nearly as well.

Pasta with Mushroom-Tomato Sauce
(serves 4-6, costs $12.50 )

¾ ounce Dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 cup Hot Water

¼ cup Olive Oil

1 clove Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, chopped (about 4 large sprigs)
1 pound Fresh Mushrooms, cut into a ½" dice
14.5 ounces Diced Canned Tomatoes

½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Black Pepper

2 Tablespoons Butter
½ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
1 pound Cavatappi (corkscrew-shaped), Fusilli or Penne Pasta

2 teaspoon Salt for salting pasta water

Combine dried mushrooms and hot water in a small bowl. Let soak for at least 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, squeezing gently to remove some of the water. Moisten a coffee filter or a paper towel. Place the filter in a small strainer over a bowl. Pour the mushroom-soaking liquid into the coffee filter to strain out any grit. Reserve the liquid. Chop the soaked mushrooms and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the parsley, soaked mushrooms, and mushroom-soaking liquid. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the fresh mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat. Sauce can be made ahead to this point. Reheat while pasta is cooking.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Return the sauce to the heat over medium-low. Add the butter, ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta. Toss to coat and serve with additional Parmesan cheese for garnish.

Adapted from The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan, Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

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