Mushrooms and Mascarpone!

Last night, I knew I wanted to make a pasta dish and was leaning towards Giada’s orecchiette with cannellini beans and sausage, which is one of Kurt’s favorites.  Grace calls it “the dish Kurt can eat out of the pan.”  The sauce is made from mascarpone mixed in with a little pasta water.  Yes, pasta water.  It’s the perfect sauce thickener because of the flour in the water (that’s why it’s cloudy).  Kurt is the master of the red sauce, while I am the master of pasta water sauces– works for me as I can’t stand all that simmering to reduce the tomatoes, etc.  My sauce takes at most 10 minutes to make!

Unfortunately, my basement freezer had no sausage; I somehow missed my par level on that staple.  However, I still had the cremini mushrooms from the other day and figured I should try to use them by Sunday.  When I checked my pasta shelf (yes, we have an entire shelf devoted to several shapes of pasta), I noted we had an excess of rigatoni.  So a rigatoni and mushroom pasta was in the works.

I googled on “mushroom rigatoni” and was happy to get several hits.  At the top of the list was a recipe by Giada, so I took a look and saw the sauce was based on mascarpone and pasta water!  Easy, easy, easy dish that I knew from experience with the orecchiete dish would take less than a half hour to cook, excluding the time to boil the water for the rigatoni.  Good for a Friday night, since Ken wanted to watch a movie.

Giada’s original recipe is here; my only changes were to substitute chicken stock (which I had in the refrigerator) for the vegetable stock, to only use the cremini caps, and to reduce the amount of chives.  I went out to the store to buy the mascarpone and chives.  (If I was really lazy, I would have substituted the cream cheese I had in the fridge for the mascarpone, which is pricey, and Italian parsley for the chives. Kurt actually likes the other Giada dish better with the cream cheese).

Rigatoni with Mushrooms

  • 1 lb of rigatoni (I used large rigatoni because that’s what I had in excess on the pasta shelf)
  • 1 large shallot finely diced
  • 1 lb of cremini mushrooms, sliced (but you could use any combination of mushrooms)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 8 oz tub of mascarpone or cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups of reserved pasta water
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 2-3 TB chives (just scant the 1/4 cup in Giada’s recipe)

My board of ingredients:

Sliced and diced and ready to go!

See that giant shallot in the background?  I originally had two, but the one was plenty.  Make sure the cheese is at room temperature before you begin to assemble the sauce.

I put a pot of water on high heat to boil; when it was ready, I salted it and threw in the rigatoni:

Make sure you salt the water…heavily. “Like the sea”

I set the timer for 7 minutes and started the sauce by heating olive oil on medium heat, until it shimmered:

Coat the bottom of the pan well with oil. You’ll need it for sauteing the ‘shrooms.

I cooked the shallots til they are softened– probably 3-4 minutes.

Softened shallots/onions = translucent, see-through

Then I tossed in the minced garlic and cooked for a minute longer.

Stir and saute to briefly cook the garlic

I added the mushrooms, salt and pepper and stirred them around to coat in the oil/shallots.  The oven timer rang, so I checked the pasta; it was still hard in the middle, so I reset the timer for another 1 1/2 minutes.

These take some time to break down and release their juices.

I let the mushrooms sit, only stirring occasionally.  The timer rang again and it was time to drain the pasta.

Rigatoni is ready to be enrobed in mushrooms and mascarpone!

It looks like the mushrooms are going to burn, just sitting there in the pan, but in a few minutes (maybe 5 0r 6, depending on the heat of the stove, etc.), they release their juices.  I stirred the mushrooms a bit more then added the wine:

Add the wine when most of the mushroom juices have evaporated

I let the wine simmer so the alcohol would burn off; I added the chicken stock when most of the wine evaporated.  For those of you who are not quite sure what “almost evaporated” means, here’s how far I let the liquid go:

Liquids (wine) almost evaporated

In went the stock:

I used chicken instead of vegetable stock.

I went ahead and added about a cup of pasta water (I didn’t have to reserve mine since I used a basket strainer insert when I made the rigatoni).  I immediately spooned in the mascarpone and began breaking it into the sauce, mixing it with the shallot/onion mixture.

Mascarpone melts fairly easily. Make sure you taste for seasoning!

Once the sauce was homogeneous, I tasted for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed, keeping in mind that I was going to add additional saltiness when I tossed in the Parmigiano.  I then poured in the rigatoni and, using two flat wooden spatulas (another Pampered Chef must-have), I tossed the noodles in the sauce until well coated.

Just a few more touches…

It was time to mix in the grated Parm:

The parm will add some salty nuttiness to this dish…

And the chives:

And a bit of color…

Not bad for 30 minutes!

Creamy, cheesy, earthy and substantial

At dinner, Kurt announced that he now preferred this dish  over the orecchiette pasta…I can’t wait ’til I tell Grace when I pick her up next week!

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