Humble ingredient, special technique – Pasta with Button Mushrooms

Gone are the days when cooking pasta was as normal as tying one’s shoelaces.

I sometimes feel that the obsession with cooking and food which we have all been privy to during the last ten years or so is just that: an obsession as opposed to a passion.  And I can get irritated occasionally by the depth of advice and technicalities that get drawn into a culinary conversation by those in the know.  O for crying out loud! it’s ONLY food, it’s only a meal, it is not surgery or rocket science!  Don’t beleaguer our already busy lives with niceties that are the appurtenance of the professional cook.  Give us a hand, instead, at making every day food, ‘ordinary’ food taste wonderful!

That said, however, and even though I may grow weary of  normal people who fall into the trap of keeping up with the culinary Jones’s, it is also true that knowledge begets knowledge and that certain snippets of knowledge really do make a big difference in the kitchen.

When it comes to cooking pasta, I think that Gareth Jones wrote a piece that just about says it all (http://www.garethjonesfood.com/6800/al-dente-can-become-al-dante).  What we didn’t discuss with Gareth while we were on the subject is another term that has gained favour in the … ahem … trying-to-keep-up-with-the-Jones wannabe-celebrity-cooks and that is the technique of: “risottare la pasta”.  This translates roughly as “making pasta as you would a risotto”.  In other words, keep adding the liquid and pasta sauce to the uncooked pasta, and stir vigorously as you would with a risotto, until it is done … until it is al dente.

No comment.  Well, okay … only one.  I am sure that pasta that has been ‘riced’ tastes wonderful but I am not at all convinced that it is necessary.

What IS necessary, on the other hand, is for the pasta to be finished off, towards the very end, in the sauce.  In other words: (a) do NOT drain the pasta and the then add the sauce to it.  (b) Instead, use a strainer or a very large slotted spoon in order to drain the pasta and then put this pasta INTO the pan containing the sauce.  Let the pasta finish its cooking time in this sauce.

Very sensible, not difficult and the past is much more delicious than if cooked the ‘old’ way as described in (a) above.

So … here is the simplest of pasta ingredients:  2 cloves of garlic, 30g of pancetta per person, about 4 or 5 button (depending on size) mushrooms per person, some butter, a little olive oil, 100g of pasta per person, about 100g of freshly grated parmesan,

Cut up some pancetta into matchstick shapes (the idea is to slice the pancetta so that you end up with 1 part of meat sandwiched between 2 parts of fat. Hey! that’s a foodie technique I just let slip, ooops!).

Check the packet of pasta to find out what the cooking time is.

Clean and trim your mushrooms and cook them in a saucepan with some butter and olive oil.

Season the mushrooms and then transfer them in a bowl and set aside.

Cook the pancetta in the same pan.  Add a little olive oil to the pan first.

When the fat has rendered, add a couple of garlic cloves, thinly sliced.

The pancetta must go nice and crisp but not the garlic.  When it turns golden, turn the heat down or (if you can’t abide garlic in your mouth like some people I know), remove the garlic altogether.

Now add some tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro).

Chop some herbs and set aside.

Now.  When the pasta needs another 3 minutes in order to be cooked (according to the  packet instructions), remove it from the boiling water …

and put it directly into the pan with the sauce.

Add a ladle of the cooking water and … start stirring with a wooden spoon.  Keep adding the cooking water and stirring until the pasta is perfectly cooked. You can ‘toss’ the pan too if you like.

As you can plainly see for yourself … there is quite a lot of ‘liquid’ in the pan just now.  Compare this photo with the one at the end and you will get an idea of just how much cooking water the pasta was able to asborb. Add the mushrooms towards the very end, and combine.

Taste it … make sure that it’s okay for salt and pepper.

Add the herbs ONLY at the end, after you have switched the heat off.

You can drizzle a little olive oil at this stage …Shower with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!So … as you can see … it makes a lot of sense to finish the past IN whatever sauce is accompanying it.  Cooking pasta, as you would a risotto, from scratch … is just … well … thoroughly unnecessary — however trendy the term ‘risottare’ might be.

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About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Herbs and plants, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Humble ingredient, special technique – Pasta with Button Mushrooms

  1. Libby Morris says:

    Hi Jo – Do you have to keep stirring the pasta until all the sauce is absorbed? Or, once the pasta is cooked, does it simply continue to soak up the remaining liquid as you add the mushrooms, herbs, etc.?

  2. Hello there … I can see why you ask the question, I don’t think my instructions were clear enough. It is a good idea to stir the sauce towards the end of the cooking time because by ‘distributing’ the liquid/sauce around the pan with the wooden spoon, you help the pasta to absorb the sauce. Alternatively, you can toss the saucepan … which is all very well if we are talking about one or two portions of pasta but which can require some very strong arm muscles if we are speaking of larger quantities! The stirring doesn’t have to be continuous, however, as it would in the case of a risotto. So: add a ladleful of sauce, stir for a bit, let the pasta absorb all the liquid … taste .. if it is not done, add a bit more sauce, stir, wait for a bit … etc etc until the pasta is done.

  3. Now I’m getting hungry – which is a problem, since it’s 2.30 am!

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