It is my strong belief that mushrooms are a severely underutilized ingredient in so many dishes. I’ve never been one who compares them to meat, although they are certainly meatier in texture than a piece of lettuce, but mushrooms are a delicious and hearty addition to any meal!
Have you ever seen Julie and Julia? The part where Amy Adams’ character Julie is talking to Julia Childs’ cookbook and says, “Is this what you mean ‘don’t crowd the mushrooms?’” always struck a chord with me because really, no one wants to eat a steamed mushroom. There is an insane flavor difference between mushrooms that have been properly browned and those that have just steamed in the proximity of other mushrooms.
The browned mushrooms? Those are the ones you want. Those are the ones that taste meaty. THOSE are the goal of every mushroom out there!
You could certainly use any mushroom you prefer; I’ve used a variety of wild mushrooms that are delicious as well. But for consistency’s sake creminis are always a winner.
For a meat-free meal that’s hearty enough for any appetite, this creamy balsamic mushroom pasta takes the cake!
Creamy Balsamic Mushroom Pasta
- 1/2 pound mezzi rigatoni (or other short cut pasta)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons De Nigris balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup half and half or whole milk
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoons salt, plus more for the pasta water
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.
- Bring a large pot of salty water to boil.
- Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente, reserving 1 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the oil to the hot skillet and add the sliced mushrooms.
- Toss the mushrooms with the oil, then spread into an even layer in the skillet.
- Allow them to cook and caramelize, WITHOUT MOVING THEM, for at least 7-10 minutes.
- Stir to loosen the mushrooms from the pan, then add the vinegar.
- Allow to cook for 30-45 seconds, then add the half and half.
- Add the thyme, salt, pepper and paprika and stir to combine.
- Add the pasta and half of the cooking water, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
- If the sauce gets too thick, add a little more of the starchy cooking water to loosen it up.
- Serve hot.