simplest mushroom pasta

Lately I’ve been trying to take as many stupid walks for my stupid mental health (a funny/wonderful TikTok trend from over the winter) as possible because if the last two years have taught me anything, it is that outside time is a very key ingredient in me being a warm, upbeat, charming person, the kind of person who never hits her snooze alarm four times and then wonders why she’s always in a rush. Okay, fine, it’s not an exorcism, but it does feel surprisingly close. More often than not, I end up swinging through the Greenmarket, which leads to me bringing home whatever looked good that day — most recently, spicy arugula, pinto potatoes, fresh flowers, and a bag of fresh cremini mushrooms. A few days after that, almost without fail, I realize I have mushrooms to use and I’ve landed on a wildly simple pasta preparation that, in a rare moment of mealtime harmony, everyone eats willingly. Honestly, I should have led with this mic drop.

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This is a non-recipe recipe, as in, maybe you’ll read and follow it once, but I hope you’ll take it from there after that. The base idea is to cook a thinly sliced vegetable in butter, olive oil, and garlic until it’s tender and well-seasoned with a concentration of flavor. I add a splash of wine or marsala for an extra layer, but it’s not mandatory. We then expand it into a sauce that stretches over pasta, and let them cook together for a minute until they’re harmonious. From here, you can add a big spoonful of something luxe — my favorite is crème fraîche but if not that, mascarpone or heavy cream would work. The result isn’t a creamy pasta, but one that tastes cozy and enriched. I always think it needs a little green on top and I get that from the chives on my terrace that come back every year despite the fact that they’re utterly neglected by me — the pot lost most of one side during construction last year, but they’re out there flowering this week like nothing happened. We should also be so inspirational, right?

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Simplest Mushroom Pasta

The recipe is shown here with 1 pound cremini mushrooms — the size bag I buy them in — but it’s actually really nice with 1.5 pounds too, if you’ve got it. Use any kind of mushrooms you like, or a mix, just slice them thin and season them well. I’m using a shape called fusilli pugliese here.
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound dried pasta, any shape you like
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced thin (see note)
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Glug of dry marsala or white wine (optional)
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche or mascarpone, or heavy cream
  • Handful chopped chives or parsley, to finish (optional)
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino
Bring a large pot of very well-salted water to a boil and cook pasta in it until 1 to 2 minutes shy of package suggestion. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water before you drain the pot.

Meanwhile, heat your largest sauté pan over high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted, add the mushrooms in as close to an even layer as possible and don’t move them for about 3 minutes, until they’re browned underneath. Sprinkle with garlic and a good amount of salt and pepper (seasoning is everything here) and give them a stir. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft and tender and any liquid expelled has cooked off, about 5 minutes. Add the marsala and cook, stirring, until it disappears. Taste the mushroom mixture; you want it very well-seasoned at this point.

Add your drained pasta and half of the reserved pasta water and cook, stirring, until the pasta absorbs most of the liquid, adding more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to keep it a little saucy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the crème fraîche. [If using heavy cream, because it’s thinner, I’d cook it it onto the pasta for 30 to 60 seconds on the stove.] Adjust seasoning, if needed, and finish with chives and cheese. Eat right away.