Monday, November 7, 2011

Simple Mushroom Pasta

If you read my last post, it may not be surprising that I am in the process of achieving a higher degree of balance in my life.  Over the past few months, I have been wobbling.  So much of my energy has been expelled outward, away from me, and I am now trying to redirect some of that energy back towards myself.  Both my professional and personal life just went through a swift, yet dramatic restructuring, and I am interpreting this is a sign to get back to my roots, and the things that make me tick. 

This weekend, I jumpstarted my personal resuscitation by cutting off all my hair and spending time with friends.  I then slept for about 14 hours (I guess I needed it).  When I emerged from my quasi-coma on Sunday morning, I jumped on my bike, went to a yoga class, read a book in the sunshine, and cleaned my apartment.  I spent hours outside, and I hadn't done that in months.  It turns out that riding bikes on a cool, fall day might even be more fun than on a summer day.  You get to put on your awesome bike gloves, and a hat, and zip around in the breezy sunshine.  I highly recommend it.

I also recommend this mushroom pasta.  It's a quick and easy dinner that seems like so much more once it's on a plate.  It's basically a makeover of jarred marinara sauce; a few fresh ingredients can truly transform store-bought tomato sauce.  While it's easy enough to make tomato sauce from scratch, this can be done in less than a half an hour from start to finish.  I used Barilla marinara sauce (I love all things Barilla.  Their pasta is totally worth the extra money, and the sauce goes on sale a lot).

First, I put a pot of water onto boil, and added 6 (maybe 8?) sliced mushrooms to a tablespoon of olive oil in a really hot pan.  I used button mushrooms, plain and simple.  Let the mushrooms sit and sizzle for a couple of  minutes before stirring.  The mushrooms will sear, and they will start to smell like some sort of delicious meat, but earthy.  Delicious, I promise. (the quantities in this recipe make 2 good sized bowls of pasta and can easily be adjusted).  
Stir occasionally, until the mushrooms reduce in volume and begin to brown.
Push the mushrooms to the side.  Add 2 chopped Roma tomatoes, a clove of minced garlic, a big pinch of dried rosemary, hot pepper flakes, ground pepper, and kosher salt (to taste).  Also, add linguine (1/4 to a 1/3 of a box) to the boiling water. (If you are not sure on timing, remember it's always better for the sauce to wait for the pasta than the other way around.  Sauce can simmer or be turned off, while pasta just gets mushy).
Stir to combine and cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down.  If the pan is looking very dry, add a tablespoon or so of water from the pasta pot.  Not only will it save your mushrooms from burning, but it will make a delightful sizzling sound. 
Add about a cup and a half of marinara.  Stir to combine.
Allow sauce to simmer while pasta cooks.  Enjoy the delicious the garlicky, mushroomy smells.
When the pasta is ready, add it directly to the sauce with tongs.  Let some of the pasta cooking water meander into the pan of sauce.  Stir to combine, check for seasoning, and put a big portion on a plate.
Add some olive oil, black pepper, and parmesan.  (Coloradans, Sunflower has amazing shaved parm at a great price).  Enjoy!

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