Wednesday Dinner: Pasta With Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, and Parmesan

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If I were to look back at my childhood and make a list of the reasons why I was overweight, the regular consumption of pasta would be in the top five. I make pasta once a week here at Al Dente HQ. Macaroni, frozen or boxed, was the basis of at least two meals a week as a kid, and may have been found in soups or other dishes that popped up during the same seven-day span.

I have cut pasta out of my diet totally in the past (namely during The Weight Loss Story), but it makes it very tough to feed The Wife and me. Plus, I like pasta.

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This recipe from the genius J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats takes a few minutes to go together at the front end, but the cooking goes rather quickly. And it uses one of the most underrated ingredients found in your kitchen: water from your pasta pan. Adding a cup of it to any sauce thickens, flavors and cuts back on the need for extra salt in your recipe.

WHAT WORKED: Charring the Brussels sprouts brings out an awesome flavor from the veggie.

WHAT DIDN’T: Me. I was certain that I had a bag of Trader Joe’s orecchiette in my cabinet. Wrong. I was also convinced that I bought enough mushrooms. Wrong again. I ended up using farfalle and a bag of dried shiitake mushrooms hanging out in my pantry.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: The Kid was busy being three during dinner on Wednesday, so most of the conversation was one-way discipline of her.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yeah. I might work some chicken in next time.

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Pasta With Mushrooms, Brussels Sprouts, and Parmesan
Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 lb. brussels sprouts, divided into individual leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. mixed mushrooms such as shiitake, button, cremini, and maitake
  • 1 medium shallot, finely minced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. picked fresh thyme leaves (JP: I used a healthy pinch of herbes de provence)
  • 4 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette (JP: I used farfalle)
  • 2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until smoking. Add brussels sprouts, toss to coat in oil, season with salt and pepper, cook without moving until well charred on one side. Toss and continue to cook until leaves are bright green and charred in spots, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in the same skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Add mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until moisture has been evaporated and the mushrooms are well browned, about 4 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring, until shallots are softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add butter, lemon juice, and stock. Simmer until sauce is reduced and emulsified, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper (this may not be necessary if stock is store-bought). Set aside off heat.

Add pasta to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly al dente (about 1 minute less than the package instructions). Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Add orecchiette, half of Parmesan, reserved pasta cooking water, and a generous amount of black pepper to mushrooms. Cook, stirring, over high heat until pasta is fully al dente and liquid has thickened into a sauce that coats the pasta, about 1 minute. If sauce looks greasy or broken, add 2 tbsp. of stock or water and stir vigorously to bring it back together. Stir in brussels sprouts leaves and serve, topping with more cheese at the table.

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