The things I really want to do I simply end up doing. The biggest decisions in my life so far-- adopting a puppy, shacking up with the husband (when he was the boyfriend) after a very brief courtship, getting married, starting my own business--have been easy for me. I guess I have a strong will, underneath my laziness.
Anyhow, that's all a digression from the point of this post which is to say, I have one thing I want to do this year which is to cook some new things. I am in a food rut, and there is no reason for it.
The rut became clear when I realized I hadn't posted in a little bit, in part because of the holidays, and in part because I haven't been cooking much. When I have cooked, it's been the same old suspects: roast chicken, simple pastas. I only had one new recipe to post about, something I made a few weeks ago, which was very delicious, but seemed kind of like a lot of other things I make: four cheese penne with wild mushrooms and thyme-scented breadcrumbs.
This was a recipe I got from the baking class I took last month; in addition to the sweets, we also enjoyed a savory lunch, including this pasta as well as a fennel and persimmon salad. I thought the pasta was divine and since I'm a mushroom fiend, I added even more mushrooms, an extra half pound on top of the original pound.
Admitting this now, it seems ridiculous. I'm not sure what got into me. But I remember eating the pasta during the class and thinking how wonderful it was and wouldn't it be even better with more mushrooms? Liz, my partner in crime for the day, agreed, as did the husband, when I ran the idea by him, so blame them for my madness.
Although the husband and I enjoyed the dish overall, my revised version left us each with a pile of mushrooms at the bottom of our bowls. So, too mushroomy. But don't let that dissuade you from the actual recipe, which was perfectly proportioned. I couldn't find one of the cheeses--Crescenza--but our teacher had warned us this might be tough to locate and mentioned Fontina would be a good substitute. The resulting pasta is creamy but not heavy or gooey--you would almost be surprised to learn that it contains four cheeses.
The breadcrumbs, of course, are what brings the dish home. Crunchy, golden, and infused with thyme--brilliant.
So hopefully this will be my last pasta recipe for a bit; I really do want to branch out. I won't resolve to do it, though, which just might increase the odds of it happening.
Four cheese penne with wild mushrooms and thyme-scented breadcrumbs
From Tante Marie
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 lb. mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c. sliced shallots
1 T. minced fresh thyme leaves, divided in half
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb penne or pennette1/3 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c. mascarpone (4 oz)
1/4 c. Gorgonzola ( 2 oz)
1/4 c. Crescenza (2 oz) (can sub Fontina)
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Regiano
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and 1 T. olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 6-8 minutes. Add the shallots and half the thyme and continue cooking until the mushrooms release their liquid and the liquid evaporates, 4-5 minutes more. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.
In a small saute pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the breadcrumbs begin to lightly brown, stir in the remaining thyme. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Add the pasta to the pan with the mushrooms and place the pan over medium-low heat. Add mascarpone, Gorgonzola, and Crescneza and stir until the cheeses begin to melt and coat the pasta, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water as needed if the mixture is dry.
Transfer the pasta to a warm serving dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.