I pondered what to name this dish for quite some time. I’m still not completely satisfied with what I’m calling it, but the name “The Most Amazing Pasta Dish You’ll Ever Eat” seemed a bit subjective and slightly opinionated.
But this is the most amazing pasta dish you will ever eat.
The idea for this dish came from a local restaurant that serves something similar. They simply call it “Strozzapreti,” after the name of the noodles. Considering I inadvertently made my version with Gemelli pasta instead, that name just wouldn’t do. But this dish combines all of the flavors that make me salivate and go weak in the knees. There’s a decadent, creamy base made of melted parmesan and heavy cream, wrapped around the tender pasta. Mushrooms are slowly cooked in simmering garlic and truffle salt, releasing all of their earthy and heavenly (see what I did there?) flavors. Spinach wilts itself amongst the rest of the concoction, offering a pop of green and vitamins to the dish. And thinly sliced chicken breast gives a rustic punch of protein and flavor. All of this is topped with slowly roasted pine nuts and an extra sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
It’s incredible. But I also made it about 3 times in 2 weeks to get the recipe exactly right, so I have met my intake quota of this pasta for the foreseeable future.
Making this dish is remarkably simple and satisfying, especially if there’s a glass of wine in one hand while you prepare dinner with the other. And isn’t that just the best feeling in the world? Standing in your kitchen at the end of a long day, a newly opened bottle of wine on the counter with a generous glass of its contents at your side. Maybe there’s a giant dog (or two) sitting at your feet, looking at you longingly, begging whatever dog deity it has to let you drop a piece of that succulent chicken. Perhaps you’ve got a laptop open to Netflix and are watching reruns of Doctor Who because you just discovered it and OHMYGOSH you’re super obsessed now. And for the duration of that meal-making, all the world is at peace. Even when you chop the onions that fuel the tears you have for the Doctor and Rose Tyler and their lost love, all is well.
That is a very real glimpse into what my life in the kitchen looks like. Come on over anytime.
The restaurant that inspired this pasta boasts using truffle oil, but I remember Martha Stewart (all hail.) saying once that all truffle oil is crap, for some reason. I think she meant most truffle oil is made with imitation flavors and is therefore sub-par. Nonetheless, when the mother ship speaks, I listen. Instead I used a bit o’truffle salt – one of my favorite seasoning purchases. The teeniest flecks of dark truffles are interspersed among the sandy-fine bits of salt, giving the earthiest and most sumptuous flavors to whatever carbs I throw them on. Because carbs. The truffle salt doesn’t define this dish, however. If you don’t have it on hand and have no inclination to go out and spend hard-earned grocery money on pretentious salt, don’t worry about it. It adds a lovely touch, but the savory and umami-laden mushrooms pick up the slack beautifully.
Besides, at the end of the day, this is a pasta dish in a parmesan cream sauce…. so who gives a flying TARDIS what else is in it.
Creamy Mushroom and Spinach Pasta with Truffle Salt
- 17 oz Gemelli pasta
- 12 oz baby bella mushrooms sliced thinly
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons truffle salt
- 3-4 handfuls of fresh spinach
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded parmesan divided
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the chicken breasts with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and fresh pepper. Bake on the center rack of the heated oven until the chicken is cooked through. About 25-30 minutes fro thawed, and about 45 for frozen. Set aside. This step can even be done a day ahead of time.
- Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Set aside.
- Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add a drizzle of 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and cook slowly until tender, then add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms down slowly until they release their juices and darken, wilting down.
- Add the cup of heavy cream to the mushrooms and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add 2/3 cup of the parmesan and let it slowly melt, stirring frequently so it melts evenly with the cream.
- Add the pasta to the mixture, then slowly incorporate the spinach, stirring over heat until it all wilts down. Slice the prepared chicken very thinly and incorporate into the pasta.
- Heat a small pan over medium low heat and add the pine nuts. Stir frequently until slightly darkened and toasted.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of parmesan over the warm pasta, then the pine nuts. Serve warm.