Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pasta with Tomato-Porcini Cream Sauce

Ooh, check out that action shot! Sorry there is no picture of the finished dish ... imagine if you will, a pinkish sauce, studded with slices of mushrooms, enrobing a hot plate of pasta ... but hey, look how fast my hand is moving. Pretty spiffy.

This is a recipe I created for my in-laws 50th anniversary party. I needed a not-too-fussy recipe that could be made (mostly) ahead, that would satisfy the vegetarians (not vegans) in the group, and that would be deliciously worthy of being served to a fairly discerning crowd of relatives.

This dish ended up filling the bill on all counts: I made the sauce and pasta the day before, I spotted one of the vegetarians taking a third helping, and my (very discerning) mother-in-law took some home as leftovers. All in all, a great success.

A major ingredient in this dish is the marinara sauce. I have had great success with Trader Joe's Sugo de Pomodoro; just be sure to choose a very tomatoey marinara, ideally one you would actually sauce pasta with. I used a "convenience" food for this dish because I needed to make so much of it (enough to sauce six to seven pounds of pasta) and I did not have the time to make a tomato sauce from scratch.

Tomato-Porcini Cream Sauce serves 4 - 6 when used to sauce one pound of pasta
  • 1/4 cup dried porcini (you can find these in speciality stores)
  • 10 oz. fresh mushrooms (cremini, baby bella, or white), sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 oz. can marinara sauce
  • pinch of dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in enough warm water to cover.

Thinly slice the fresh mushrooms. Heat a large skillet or dutch oven and pour in the oil. When hot, put in the fresh mushrooms and saute until browned and most of their liquid has boiled off.

While the mushrooms are sauteing, lift the soaked (now not so dry) dried mushrooms out of the water. Squeeze them (over the bowl) to get a little of the water out of them. Chop the dried mushrooms and add them to the fresh mushrooms in the pan.

Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or a cheesecloth lined strainer and add it to the pan.

Let the liquid boil down until there are only a few tablespoons of liquid left. Add the marinara sauce, thyme and cream. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to move this operation to a larger saucepan.)

Bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then taste for salt and pepper. Correct seasoning if needed.

Recipe notes:

I like this with a short, sauce-catching pasta like pennette, gemelli, fusilli, or campanelle.

To make ahead: Make the sauce and refrigerate. Boil the pasta until it's just underdone (it should be a little tougher than you would like it normally). Drain the pasta and cool it down by running cold water over it. Toss the pasta with a little olive oil.

When ready to serve, heat up the sauce. Put the pasta into the sauce and stir occasionally until heated through (5-10 minutes). The pasta will cook through in the hot sauce and will become tender. The recipe scales easily, just saute the mushrooms in batches (In my enormous skillet, I sauteed six 10 oz. boxes of mushrooms in about 4 batches.)


Eric Faulkner said...

I'd have been a nervous wreck if your action shot was video. No food holder or chain mail glove? Especially something small like porcini? And a hand moving so fast it's a blur? For me, your new middle name is 'Danger'.

Stefan Jones said...

Where DID you find that 128 oz can of marinara?

* * *

The pasta dish was good stuff. I had a couple of helpings, and would have brought some home except I was afraid that the TSA guys would seize it and detonate it.

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