Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Penne for your thoughts

Normally, I’m a pretty focused and organized kinda’ gal, who can multitask with the best of them. Heck, I make up my grocery list by aisle, put together detailed packing lists before any trip and have spreadsheets galore to track and analyze stuff. But in spite of having these OCD-types of habits, when I am really focused on trying to solve a problem, I become a bit like the Absent Minded Professor and get a bit forgetful.

The days leading up to making this recipe for me and Clare were crazy for me, mostly because there were some knotty problems to be sorted out for one of the volunteer groups I’m involved with. With my head awhirl with trying to come up with possible solutions, I forgot to buy one of the ingredients for this dish, namely the Portobello mushrooms.

They were on my grocery list; right there under the heading of produce. But in my Absent Minded Professor state, I just walked right by them. Seriously, how more bone-headed could I get? Well, apparently quite a bit.

In spite of not having any Portobellos, I did have the dried porcinis and everything else on the ingredient list and decided to forge ahead. As you’ve hopefully noticed in prior posts, I try to link to the recipes I make whenever possible. This one -- Penne with Mushrooms, Spinach, Rosemary and Tomatoes -- proved to be a challenge. It comes from the September 2005 issue of Bon Appétit, but it’s nowhere to be found online. That being the case, here’s the run-down of the ingredients:

  • 2 T. butter

  • 2 T. olive oil

  • 1 lb. 3-inch diameter Portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills scraped, sliced

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 2/3 c. beef broth, divided

  • 1 c. chicken broth

  • ½ oz. dried porcini mushrooms

  • 1/3 c. dry white wine

  • 3 large plum tomatoes, chopped

  • 1 lb. penne pasta

  • 1 6-oz. bag baby spinach leaves

  • 1 ¼ c. coarsely grated Asiago cheese, plus additional for sprinkling

The recipe serves six, so I cut it in half for the two of us. First up was getting my prep out of the way. I chopped up the fresh rosemary, minced up the garlic and measured out my beef stock.

If you are a brilliant shopper and remembered to buy the Portabellos, you would need to melt the butter with the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Portobellos, garlic and 1 tsp. of rosemary. Saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a medium bowl.

Because I forgot the ‘shrooms, I melted the butter with the oil, then tossed in the rosemary and garlic and let it sauté until the garlic just turned golden.

Now it’s time to add 1 cup of the beef broth and the chicken broth to same skillet the Portobellos were cooked in. I then added the dried porcinis, put a cover on the pan and let that simmer over medium-low heat until the porcinis were tender, about 12 minutes.

Once the porcinis are ready, add the Portobello mixture and the wine and simmer away for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining rosemary and tomatoes and continue to simmer until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. The aroma of this sauce was just amazing.

While the sauce was simmering away, I cooked my penne and, when done, drained it and returned it back to the pot. I added the spinach and remaining beef broth and gave it all a good toss to wilt the spinach. Then I stirred in my mushroom mixture and most of the cheese, using the remainder to garnish the plate.

Now normally I would have a shot of the plated dish. But because I am an IDIOT, I forgot to take the final shot. So you’ll just have to imagine what it looked like. Please trust me that it looked beautiful – the red tomatoes and the wilted spinach just glistened in the sauce. And the irony was that even without the Portobellos, this sauce rocked! The porcinis added an earthy richness and provided wonderful texture. The wilted spinach was also a nice touch and a different way to work some greens into the meal. I should have examined the stems on some of the leaves a bit more closely, though, because there were a few long ones that gave off a slightly bitter taste. But all in all, this is one recipe that will definitely grace our table again and maybe even include Portobellos!


  1. O. M. G. is all I can say, Mattie. The photos look magnificent and I was sure I could even catch the aroma of all this good stuff cooking! Yummm. Can't wait to try it myself. Thanks for taking time out from all your adventures to share this recipe.