I first made a version of this dish a few years ago. The recipe intrigued me. No meat? Just mushrooms and pasta and noodles and a bit of cheese? At that point, it was a step out of my comfort zone. So I made it – bravely walking into the unknown realm of a meatless meal o’shrooms.
The final product was good. Not great. It was one of those dishes that excited me during the first few bites: mmmmmm mushrooms for days! they’re so amazing with little else!
But a few more bites in, and my palate was starting to ask for a timeout. The dish began to taste dry, the flavors odd, and I convinced myself I had unknowingly bought extra fungus-y mushrooms. It was unpleasant, and for only the fifth time in my life, I didn’t want to clean my plate.
Meanwhile, across the table from me, the boy was loving it. And that’s the reason this recipe got a round 2.
In the years that have passed since I initially made this, Kevin has asked about “that mushroom thing you made that one time” on numerous occasions. I couldn’t bring myself to make it again for quite some time – our first encounter started so beautifully and ended so strangely…. I never don’t like food – what went wrong?
I think there is one big element to the problem: my love for mushrooms is very conditional. I like its flavor subtly infused with the rest of a dish, not overwhelming it in the one man show I mentioned earlier. When they’re in abundance in a dish, at one point you remember you’re eating fungus… and it loses its appeal. So during round 2 of this recipe, I decided to give the dish a creamy base and let it simmer for a bit, slowly absorbing all of the earthy flavors of the shrooms.
To start, you slice the button and shitake mushrooms ever-so-thinly, so your dining experience isn’t interrupted by a hunk of shroom that didn’t get the chance to fully cook and reach its potential. Then, you take the dried oyster mushrooms and rehydrate them in a bit of warm water. I thought this process was genius – the dried mushrooms plump up over the course of merely 15 minutes, leaving you with a broth of its own juices that goes right into the cream base.
The shallot and butter have a little tete-a-tete in a pan. Some white wine hops in to make it an adult party (be sure to take a good whiff of the wine as it simmers down with the butter and shallot here – it’s incredible). The dry mushrooms drop by and soak up some of the juices, then the cream inundates the pan with a luscious sweetness that the mushrooms so desperately need. Then goes in the rehydrated oyster mushrooms with their own broth, and bit of salt and pepper to taste. Finally, the pasta and a heaping portion of parmesan complete the dish, creating a creamy, gooey, sweet, cheesy, savory dish that will restore your faith in mushrooms if you’ve ever been burned, like me.
That did the trick. The mushrooms were tender and subtle – adding the perfect level of earthiness and bit of bite to an otherwise luscious, decadent pasta dish. We served this alongside some Herb Focaccia to help sop up the creamy sauce and bits of mushrooms. Kevin topped his with a bit of grilled chicken for added protein, and I was this close to crumbling some pancetta (or bacon, because it’s tried and true and amazeballs) on top.
Creamy Three Mushroom Pasta
- 17 oz dried short pasta such as gemelli or rotini
- 1 cup dried oyster mushrooms
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 shallot minced
- 3/4 cup dry white wine such as sauvignon blanc
- 2 cups button mushrooms de-stemmed and thinly sliced
- 1 cup shitake mushrooms de-stemmed and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. In a jar of 1 1/2 cups warm water, place the dried oyster mushrooms and let soak for 15 minutes.
- While pasta is cooking, in a large pan melt the butter over medium heat and cook the shallot until soft and fragrant.
- Add white wine to the pan and cook off, for about five minutes.
- Add the sliced button and shitake mushrooms and let cook for 6 or 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the mushrooms cook, drain the oyster mushrooms (and reserve the liquid) and chop into 1/2″ pieces. Return to its broth.
- Add the cream to the pan and let simmer on medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Then, add the oyster mushrooms and broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Mix in the pasta and parmesan, stirring until well combined and the parmesan is melted. Serve warm, with more parmesan on top if desired.