Saturday, December 19, 2009

mushroom marsala pasta with artichokes

mushroom marsala pasta with artichokes

People, I’m about at the end of my ordered-in dinner rope. It’s not that — as the front page of this site might suggest — I haven’t cooked anything since the baby arrived, it’s just that I’ve largely cooked things that could be assembled during naptimes, and most of Alex and my conversations about meals go, “What should we do for dinner?” “I made mushroom toasts and a bowl of butterscotch sauce today!” “Right, so what should we order?” And so on with the pho, cracker-thin pizza and hummusiot dinner deliveries. For three months. At 93 days, even shakshuka broiled with haloumi gets tiresome.


Now, I don’t expect any violins, especially from folks without the East Village’s globe of food delivery options at their fingertips, but I am sure you all understand what it means to desperately crave a homecooked meal. And I don’t mean a 5-hour braise or hand-sheeted pasta (though, ahem, I wouldn’t push either away); even a simple sautéed chicken, which I managed to eek out a few weeks ago, stands out as one of the best things we’ve eaten in a month.

artichokes, thimbles, cheese

Now I wouldn’t call what I made for dinner Thursday night me turning over a new leaf, one in which eating dinner won’t involve bickering over politely discussing whose turn it is to pick up the phone while the other one changes the tot into his frog pajamas, and certainly not during a week better devoted to cookie-baking, gift-packaging and being a guest at someone else’s table, but I’d like to think it’s a start. A homey, delicious start, and one I can’t wait to see more of in the new year.

mushroom marsala, thimbles

One year ago: Seven-Layer Cookies and Grasshopper Brownies
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Cookies and Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
Three years ago: Short Ribs Bourguignon and Robert Linxe’s Ganache Tart

Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Artichokes
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentis

So what’s the story with this? A lifetime ago, I told you about Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala, which I said, frankly, was all about the mushrooms while the chicken lingered in the background like a b-list celebrity. So when I saw Giada making a pasta dish that forewent the chicken to just hone in on the marsala mushrooms — and even threw in artichokes, my favorite-est vegetable — it was enough to even get this discombobulated cook organized in time for dinner.

The only note I’d make about the flavor is that, though I enjoyed the subtle meatiness of the dish, I can see why others might want a little acid to brighten it up; if you find this to be the case, I think a tablespoon or so of lemon juice or a splash of balsamic added at the end might do the trick.

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and chopped into small bits (I used creminis)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1 tablespoon for pasta water
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1 pound pasta, Giada recommends thimble-shaped pasta, ditalini, but I think I used snail-shaped or chiocciole
1/2 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and one teaspoon of the salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have cooked down, about 10 minutes (though this took me much less time). Add the Marsala and continue cooking until almost all the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in remaining salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and add it into the mushrooms, Marsala and onions Add the artichoke hearts, Parmesan and cream and cook until the artichokes are heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and pepper, then adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Update 12/30/13: I hadn’t made this and years and dusted it off tonight. Conclusion: I think I’d actually like this better with twice as many mushroom and no artichokes. I mentioned above that I thought it needed some lemon or acidity — actually, artichokes do. Mushrooms and marsala sauce are perfect together, after all. I’d rather save the artichokes for a more lemony pasta sauce.


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