Pasta in Double Mushroom Sauce

The Truth about Pasta 

I have to confess – I have always preferred eating vegetarian pastas over non-vegetarian ones. The only pasta which can probably make me look twice is the Carbonara (which means, whenever Carbonara is in the menu, I order it), but otherwise, I tend to look at the vegetarian ones more than the non-vegetarian ones. But then, I remember eating this intense and beautiful ravioli dish once, with an egg yolk inside, fried lightly in browned butter, and when I cut open each of them, golden yellow yolk came gushing out, like liquid sunshine.

It was beautiful.

pasta cooked with mushrooms

Anyway, recently I was thinking of what to make for a quick late-afternoon meal, when I remembered the package of Del Monte pasta I had in my pantry. Initially, I was thinking of making a simple ‘Cacio e pepe’, or simply add some cheese and pepper (I’m lazy!), but then, I realized I had no cheese in the house. But, I did have a package of button mushrooms, so I chose to use that after a brief amount of thought. I added a little bit of oyster mushrooms to it as well, but you can omit that, and just add more button mushrooms to your recipe (I basically added them, because the dry oyster mushrooms were actually getting older and wiser inside my pantry, and I needed to finish them off). The best part? After you finish prepping, all you have to do is put the right things at the right place, and you’re done!

del monte pasta 

Making Merry with Mushrooms

Start by cleaning about 250 gm. mushrooms. I would suggest using a combination of button and oyster or shiitake, but, at a pinch, use button mushrooms, they work out pretty well. Take about 200 gm. of the mushrooms (including the oyster/shiitake if you have it) and chop it up finely. Slice the remaining mushrooms and set aside. Meanwhile, if you want to add a vegetable or two, now is the time to prep them. I used about 50 gm. broccoli, because I like them. You can either cut them in florets, and them steam them till they are tender, or, if you are like me, add half a cup of water to them, put them inside a microwave safe bowl, and then cook at full power for 4 minutes. Remove, and reserve the water. You can use it as vegetable stock while cooking the mushrooms. Likewise, you can add vegetables like carrots, beans, or cauliflower.

Garlic frying in oil

 Heat a couple of teaspoons of oil in a pan (I used nonstick, because that way, I use less oil), and add 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped. I have to say here, whether you use olive oil, or plain vegetable oil, will make ABSOLUTELY no difference to the end result. Been there, done that, garlic rules the world. Let the garlic get fragrant over medium-low heat, then drop in the finely chopped mushrooms. Stir well and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. You would see plenty of mushroom liquid which would be extracted, and you should ideally add a couple of teaspoons of water (or stock, I like chicken or the reserved broccoli cooking water here) whenever you see the mushrooms look too dry. Cook till the mushrooms change color and darken slightly. At that point, I add a splash of Balsamic vinegar, but you can add some lemon juice too, it tastes quite good.

mushrooms frying in pan

 Meanwhile, heat a large vessel with about a litre water, and once the water is boiling, salt it. Over high heat, drop in about 200 gm. raw, uncooked pasta (I used penne, but feel free to use other shapes, which would be slightly large, and therefore, able to suck in the flavors from the mushrooms).  Let the pasta start boiling.

mushroom and broccoli

 At this point, stop staring at your bowl filled with mushrooms and broccoli, and just dump them in the pan. I prefer adding the broccoli first, turning up the heat to cook them a bit before adding the mushrooms, but feel free to be yourself here. Cook, stirring gently, for about a few minutes. Add a few sprigs of parsley, chopped. You can also use dried parsley, but don’t miss out on the parsley. It gives a little bit of pepper, which spikes the flavors considerably. Add a few dashes of pepper as well, and check the pasta. Ideally, it should have a little bit of chew remaining, but don’t worry about it much.

boiling pasta

 Once the pasta is more or less cooked, dump it in, along with about 2/3rd cup of water. The key here is to add the moisture from the pasta, which would mix with the mushrooms and create a rather beautiful sauce. I generally mix everything in, and walk away for 2-3 minutes, simmering the pan over low heat. Then,  I turn off the heat, and let the pasta rest for 5-6 minutes more. Trust me, your pasta, if you have cooked it properly, will be perfect after that resting time.

pasta cooking in sauce

And then, once the resting is over, check for seasoning, and then finish by sprinkling more parsley on top, and a few more dashes of pepper. If you are a cheese freak, grate some Parmesan on this, too, but personally, I would prefer eating this, because its dead simple, and is so light and refreshing, especially in the strange weather we seem to be having nowadays. The end result will have a bit of liquid gathered at the bottom. While serving, carefully portion some of it into each plate. This recipe feeds two very hungry souls, or three moderately hungry people (that would be us!), and I have realized I like the liquid a lot. You can, of course, make this with minced meat, or a combination of meat and mushrooms, but personally, I prefer this version.

Best part? The mushroom-loving, pasta-snob sister approves.

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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