Back to the basics: This simple pasta dish feels fancy with mushrooms, prosciutto
Dried pasta will forever be a pantry staple in my house, but if I’m not careful, I can accidentally make a dish that’s too boring for even my kids.
Spaghetti and marinara or Alfredo sauce is one of those meals that I used to make a lot when I was new to cooking, but building a meal around a jar of store-bought sauce leaves my taste buds underwhelmed now. I’m more likely to saute a little Italian sausage and vegetables — kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli or even sweet potatoes work well here — to toss with the plain, cooked pasta. A drizzle of olive oil just before serving serves as the sauce.
Andrea Soranidis, author of a new book called “20-Minute Italian” (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), offers another technique for making a lightly sauced pasta dish that is quick but full of flavor.
To save time, she microwaves prosciutto to crisp it up, and to make the sauce thick without dairy, she uses a little flour to coat the mushrooms that are then simmered in stock and tossed with starchy pasta water. It’s a basic technique that you can adjust according to your tastes, using bacon instead of prosciutto, for instance, or, dare I suggest, green beans, bell peppers or peas instead of or in addition to the mushrooms.
Pasta alla Boscaiola
This filling, heart-warming pasta is the kind of comfort food I crave when the temperature drops. This recipe is inspired by a traditional Italian pasta dish, tagliatelle alla boscaiola, which means “woodman’s tagliatelle.” This classic dish has many variations, but the most popular one includes wild or porcini mushrooms, Italian sausage and fresh double cream. I wanted to lighten things up a little, so I’ve swapped the sausage with crispy Parma prosciutto and made a velvety, dairy-free sauce.
— Andrea Soranidis
12 ounces bucatini pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
10 ounces chanterelle or porcini mushrooms
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup warm vegetable stock
A pinch of nutmeg
4 thin slices Parma prosciutto
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lightly salt the boiling water, and fold in the pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package directions, about 8 minutes. While the pasta is still cooking, remove 1/4 cup of the water from the pot, and set it aside.
Heat extra-virgin olive in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook until it begins to turn golden, adding a bit of warm water if necessary.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté them for 5 minutes over medium-high heat or until cooked through. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with the flour, then pour in the warm stock and gently stir all the ingredients together. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Season with the nutmeg and sea salt and black pepper to taste, and remove the pan from the heat.
Place the thin slices of Parma prosciutto in between paper towels, and microwave them on high heat for 1 minute. Remove the paper towel from the top, and allow the prosciutto slices to cool down and dry up for a couple of minutes, then break them into small bits.
Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the mushroom sauce. Pour in the reserved cooking water, and return to the heat. Cook until the sauce is velvety and creamy, about 2 minutes, tossing to combine all the ingredients.
Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the crispy prosciutto bits and the parsley. Sprinkle with black pepper. Serves 4.
— From “20-Minute Italian: Your Traditional Favorites, Faster, Easier and with a Modern Twist” by Andrea Soranidis (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)