Monday, February 1, 2010

These are pasta sort of days.

The kind of pasta I ate as a kid was generally the kind that came out of a can or the sauce came out of a jar. The first time I had spaghetti cooked al dente I thought someone had mistakenly undercooked it. I never knew that a meatball was so big and meaty. Then my New York/Italian godfather moved to Atlanta near us. All of a sudden we had homemade pizza, and Italian wedding soup, and amazing pasta where the sauce was made from scratch. "Keep strring the pot Violet or the sauce will burn" he would say. Or maybe that was Goodfellas, I get them confused. Either way, from then on in my pasta was slightly undercooked and my sauce didn't taste like sugar. During my younger vegetarian years I made a lot of pasta. It was the perfect meal to have when you had no money and needed to be full. I remember one dish that I would make that was basically free was pasta primavera. I would boil some pasta, add a few veggies, and a packet of Ranch powder (I think it was supposed to make dressing). Presto, you have something that is filling and (at the time) tasted delicious. I'm sure my taste buds have developed a bit more now and my skills are a bit more refined but for barely knowing how to cook back then, creating a dish like this was a pretty amazing feat. I felt awesome, like I could take on Chef Mario Batali in a one on one pasta battle. I deserved 5 Michelin stars for this dish.

So, many years later my love of pasta still remains. Once in a while I even crave pasta primavera. Whenever I pass the Hidden Valley Ranch isle in the grocery store, I get that super sour garlic powdered milk taste in my mouth and I think "You know, I wish I had some delicious homemade pasta to get rid of this nasty taste in my mouth". Especially in the middle of Winter nothing seems as satisfying as a nice warm bowl of pasta. Recently I went down to Delaurentis and picked up a few pounds of assorted pastas. Cavatelli was one of them. It's a cigar shaped pasta made of semolina and flour. It's dense and the little curled up center is perfect for sopping up a tasty sauce. I had some beautiful shitake mushrooms and heavy cream so the sauce was a no brainer. In my teenage years I would have used a packet of mushroom gravy for a quick cream sauce but luckily times have changed.

Cavatelli con Funghi Shiitake

12 ounces cavatelli pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound shitake mushrooms trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
kosher salt tt
fresh cracked black pepper, tt
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or scallions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (just cooked through) Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring until soft (3-4 minutes). Add the shallots, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add the cream, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the Parmesan and adjust the seasoning. Add the pasta and stir to coat with the sauce. Add the chives/scallions and serve.

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