Sometimes I whip something tasty up in the kitchen, and it’s a simple matter of “oh, I have these things, this makes sense, I’m gonna make a thing.” Especially if I have a craving for a certain “flavor profile” but not a concrete idea of what it’s going to be at first.
That’s what happened today, so this is the sort of breakdown of this “recipe” that ended up being one of the finer plates of pasta I’ve ever made. Accidental winner of winners. Go figure!
In my fridge I had (and no, this isn’t something I ALWAYS have lying around) the following items…
From the other day when I made “wonton meatballs.”
- The liquid from reconstituting dried wild mushrooms (you can keep this to make broth or gravy, it’s full of flavor – always keep that, freeze it in a freezer bag if you don’t think you’re gonna use it right away)
- About a cup of reconstituted mushrooms that I didn’t use for the meatballs because apparently I can’t read measurements and had way too many
- About half of a finely chopped shallot
- Approximately 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsely
- Approximately 1/4 cup chopped scallions
Other things laying around my fridge and/or pantry:
- Half package of presliced white button mushrooms
- About 6 oz of cream cheese
- Heavy Cream
- 2% milk
- Minced garlic
- Wine (duh) – in this case, Barefoot Pinot Gris (my favorite and it is almost ALWAYS on-hand)
- Truffle Oil (forget what you’ve heard, if it’s used correctly, i.e. sparingly as fuck, it’s wonderful)
- Parmesan cheese – shredded and shaved
- Baby spinach (about 3 cups uncooked)
- Sundried tomatoes (See note about truffle oil. Seriously)
- A package of “not fresh but the fresher fancier dried kind that cooks in just 3-4 minutes” egg fettuccine
- Olive Oil
- Dried Thyme (ground…the powdery kind, I like it best for cream sauces)
- Salt & Pepper
There. There’s your “what’s in it???” list. Take it and run, or read on for the “how.”
Here’s the method of how I tossed this together – it looks like a lot, but it was really pretty haphazard and easy:
Heat up a large frying pan to about medium high, drizzle in about two tablespoons each of butter and olive oil
Once melted, toss in the minced shallot and, once it’s cooked to just shy of translucent, add about a tablespoon or so of minced garlic (3-4 large cloves total). And I love garlic, too, and normally put A LOT, but sometimes (and only sometimes), restraint is good when you’re aiming for something in particular.
Sautee that another minute and add about a cup of that mushroom “liquid.” and simmer until it’s cooked down to where the liquid is mostly gone. Then repeat this step if you feel like taking the time and you have the liquid available (and honestly, you’ll be fine if you skip this step, but I was going for a nice, rich mushroom sauce).
While I was letting it cook down, I sautéed my sliced button mushrooms in equal parts of olive oil and butter, setting it aside once I’d gotten a good brown on the mushrooms. Then I added my reconstituted mushrooms and sautéed a bit longer, then set it aside.
After the second cup of mushroom liquid cooked down, I added about a half cup of wine or so and did the same thing…simmered until it was cooked down to almost no liquid in the pan…just flavor.
Turning the heat down to medium, I tossed the cream cheese into the onion mushroom mixture and stirred until it melted. I added about two cups of heavy cream, and about a half cup of shredded (grated would work, too) parmesan stirring to mix together. Cheese is good, but I didn’t want to overpower the mushroom flavor with the parmesan, so I used some restraint (just like with the garlic. And yes, it was hard).
Oh, if you’re going “Hold up…cream cheese? Why?” Well, I’ll tell you why, it’s because it’s great. It doesn’t taste like cream cheese in a cream sauce like this. It just adds some thickness and richness to what your sauce was already going to be. Trust me on this.
I let that sit on low for a bit, simmering the flavors together, and I started my pasta. Follow the directions on the package and make your damn pasta. It’s pasta. And don’t under-salt the water. Seriously, I did this for years. Don’t. Salt the eff out the water (I used the equivalent of maybe a 1/4 cup? Maybe?).
Then I took the spinach and wilted it down…three cups turns into nearly nothing, but that’s fine, we’re not making spinach pasta. If this isn’t something you’ve done, you can use any liquid, but I’m a fan of butter and oil. Melt the butter and oil (tablespoon of each maybe), and after it starts to sizzle, toss your spinach in and then, using tongs, toss it around until it’s wilty and has shrunk all to hell but try to leave a LITTLE brightness to it. Then set it aside.
After your sauce simmers a bit, it will probably thicken. If it thickens too much, add more heavy cream or, if you realize you won’t have enough for coffee in the morning, add some milk (if you add water, I’ll kill you)…just enough to get your sauce to the consistency you want.
Drizzle into your sauce A TINY BIT of truffle oil. And I mean tiny. Like maybe a half teaspoon. Truffle oil should be like this: You take a bit of something. It’s wonderful. Then you’re like wait…there’s a hint of something….what is that. Nah…no, it’s definitely something…but what?
THAT’S how you should taste your truffle oil. If it slaps you in the face, you’ve fucked up your sauce.
Mince up a few sundried tomatoes. Like maybe a TOTAL of a tablespoon and a half. Tiny little pieces. They should be barely detectable just like your truffle oil.
Why bother? BECAUSE IT’S WONDERFUL. The subtleties of “side flavors” along with the bolder flavors adds depth.
Drain (don’t rinse it, you monster, just drain it) your pasta (I used about “4 servings worth” and it was perfect) and add to your sauce. Add the spinach, mushrooms, and the sundried tomatoes, oh and that chopped flat-leaf parsley you had and, using tongs, toss it all together so everything is evenly mixed. Add a few cranks or three of fresh ground pepper and about a half teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Give it a few more tosses with the tongs.
Plate your pasta and sprinkle with the chopped scallions and some shaved parmesan kinda broken up so it’s not just squares of dry cheese. You can use the other parmesan, but this stuff looks prettier.
Bone Ape Tit. Eat it.
Oh and look at this again. It’s pretty.