Penne with Mushrooms

Penne with Mushrooms

It’s Hanukkah, Night Three. All weekend I’d been planning to make a Livornese fried chicken dish from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. Y’know, fried, cuz of the oil and the miracle and all. But first, Harry’s preschool was having their Hanukkah party. I planned to stop by the butcher on the way, pick up some chicken, and leave it in the car while we had our fun (it’s plenty cold enough here today). One thing I hadn’t counted on: The butcher was closed. And by the time the party was over, so was every other butcher in the neighborhood. I suppose I could’ve gone to a supermarket, but it was raining buckets and Harry was in the car with me so… Plan B.

Did I have a Plan B? Not so much. We walked in the door at 5:30, and after peeling off my wet coat I went straight for the kitchen. Thank goodness, there was a package of crimini mushrooms in there. My mind went immediately to a pasta sauce I’d made a few weeks ago, inspired by Bucatini with Mushrooms from a recent Cooking Light. Oh, yes, that would do. That would do nicely.

5:45. Pot of water: On to boil. Chop chop chop the mushrooms, chop chop chop chop the shallots, smush and chop chop chop the garlic—we’re practically done. That’s right, this is another one of those pasta sauces that’s so quick and easy, it’s ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sa-weet.

6:15. Dinner is served. Dayum, this is good. And in another Hanukkah miracle, Harry walked into the kitchen while I was cooking and asked, “What smells so yummy?” He actually ate it. Don’t get me wrong—he wouldn’t touch the mushrooms themselves, but the little dude had seconds of the pasta, which was coated in all that lovely mushroomy goo.

Now, to ask the rebbe: Does the little bit of olive oil in the sauce count for Hanukkah points?

Penne with Mushrooms
Inspired by Cooking Light
Serves 4

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
½ cup boiling water
1 package penne [I like Barilla Plus]
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, whatever kind you like, roughly chopped [I almost always have crimini on hand]
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried

Combine porcini and 2/3 cup boiling water in a bowl; cover and let stand while you put salted pasta water on to boil.

Cook pasta following package directions; remove and reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid before draining.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. While that’s going, pluck the porcini from the soaking liquid and chop. Reserve ½ cup soaking liquid, but be sure not to include any of the grit at the bottom of the bowl. Stir porcini, sherry, and a hefty pinch of salt into the skillet; cook 1 minute or until liquid is almost evaporated.

Reduce heat to medium. Stir in pasta, ¼ cup reserved cooking liquid, ½ cup reserved porcini soaking liquid, ¼ cup of the grated Parm, thyme, and pepper. Toss well to combine and let it bubble away for another minute or two, until the liquid thickens and looks almost creamy.

Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve with remaining Parm on top.