Thursday, January 28, 2016

Marsala Sauced Mushrooms Baked with Kale and Pasta

Lately a new medication has messed with my tummy, tastebuds and appetite, and kitchen activity has been hit and miss. Looking for inspiration motivation I clicked through scads of pinterest photos, randomly searching for something tempting, something yummy that would feature the mushrooms and kale in my fridge. A photo from SmittenKitchen's "Mushroom Marsala Pasta Bake" caught my eye; visually appealing comfort food that might not challenge my tummy. So many of Deb's recipes are delicious and this one looked like a winner.  

I adjusted the ingredients, adding kale and substituting other items, but did follow the original recipe's steps. 

* Cook the pasta and soak the dried 'shrooms.
* Brown the mushrooms and onions.
* Prepare the sauce.
* Combine 'shrooms, sauce and pasta and bake until browned.

30 minutes to prep, 30 minutes to bake, and this pasta dish was on the table and ready to enjoy. It did not disappoint! This is not your old-school baked casserole, overly ooey-goey and full of processed ingredients. Oh no, this awesome dish eschews (omigosh, who really uses that word?) canned anything, celebrates the deep, earthy flavor of mushrooms, incorporates fresh kale for vitamins and color, and delivers an scrumptious, slightly booze-flavored cheesy sauce. Scrumptious? Yes, it was that good, Official taste tester RL repeatedly attacked sampled the pan of sauce with a Tablespoon and suggested we forego the pasta and skip the oven bake. Its true, by itself the sauced mushroom mixture is temptingly delicious, but I held out for the pasta and oven bake. Pastaless, I would pile a spoonful onto a toasted baguette slice for a hearty appetizer. It would be great finger food on a small bread slice or scrumptious, plated knife-and-fork fare on a large slice. 

Mushroom Marsala Pasta with Kale
adapted from Deb's recipe at SmittenKitchen

Servings: 4 large or 6 regular ones

1/2 pound cut tube pasta; ziti, penne, or some twisty shape like cavatappi
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
handful dried mushrooms: soaked, drained, sliced (water reserved)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup marsala wine (I substituted vermouth in one batch)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup reserved mushroom soaking water
1 cup chicken stock (or substitute beef, vegetable or mushroom)
1/2 cup (50 grams) finely grated parmesan cheese, divided 
4 ounces mozzarella cut into small cubes (I 've also used Emmentaler)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
2 cups kale, rinsed & sliced into thin ribbons


Cook the pasta
Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, stopping before fully cooked since it will cook further in the oven. Drain and set aside. (It may stick together but will loosen up when added to the sauce.)

Heat oven: To 400 degrees F.

Make the sauce:
Add oil to the now-empty pasta pot and heat to shimmering over high heat. Add fresh mushrooms; cook and toss until they begun to color but before they release any liquid.

Reduce heat to medium-high; add onions, reconstituted dried mushrooms, salt and pepper and saute together until the mushroom liquid is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring frequently, until liquid has nearly evaporated.

Stir in the butter, mixing until melted. Using a strainer, sprinkle flour over the mushrooms; stir until completely absorbed. Add mushroom soaking water and stock, a few ounces at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Each addition should be fully incorporated before adding the next. Repeat until all stock has been added. Let mixture simmer together for 2 minutes, stirring frequently; the sauce will thicken. Remove pan from heat.

Assemble and bake dish:
(Use the cooking pan if it’s an oven-safe dish. Otherwise...
Transfer this mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.)
Add cooked pasta to the sauced mushroom mix and stir until combined. Add the kale, half the parmesan, all of the mozzarella and two tablespoons of the parsley; stir until evenly mixed. Sprinkle the top with remaining parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges of pasta are golden brown. Sprinkle with reserved parsley and serve hot. Reheat as needed.

For a crowd double the recipe and use a 9×13-inch or lasagna pan.

My recipe for Pasta with Mushrooms, Kale and Walnuts offers a stovetop dish with similar ingredients but quite different results. Give them both a try. 

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