Sunday, February 19, 2006

Recipe: Mushroom Cream Sauce for Pasta

I'm not exactly hardcore when it comes to cream -- I only use half a cup for two to three servings. Broth from reconstituted dried mushrooms and some stock or pasta cooking water provide the rest of the liquid. As far as the fresh mushrooms, use your favorite kind or a combination of different varieties (though regular white mushrooms are fine), and feel free to chop or slice them however you like. As a guide for timing, I start cooking 12-minute pasta just after adding the mushrooms, parsley, and salt.

Amounts are approximate and can be messed with.

Makes 2-3 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup sliced pancetta or 2 slices bacon, in thin 1/4-inch strips
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (about a handful) dried mushrooms such as porcini, soaked in 3/4 cup warm water for 15 minutes and drained; reserve soaking liquid
5-6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup or less chicken or vegetable stock, or pasta cooking water
Parmesan for grating
Black pepper

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and cook until browned and crisp, 6-8 minutes. Remove pancetta or bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to sprinkle over pasta later. Leave fat in pan.

Add butter to pan and allow to melt. (If it melts very quickly and begins to brown, lower heat to medium low.) Add garlic and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, until garlic begins to turn golden. Add reconstituted and fresh mushrooms and parsley, and stir to coat with mixture in pan. Add a good pinch of salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until mushrooms are tender and slightly browned on the edges, about 8 minutes.

Stir in mushroom broth (you can strain it first if it looks murky). Add heavy cream slowly, stirring constantly, until blended with mushroom broth. Add enough stock or pasta cooking water to almost cover the mushrooms, no more than 1 cup. Cook for about 4 minutes at a low boil. Check for salt, adding more if necessary. Serve hot over pasta with grated Parmesan, freshly ground black pepper, and pancetta or bacon on top.

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