Friday, 20 March 2009

Autumn pasta - mushrooms, spinach, pine nuts and creme fraiche

This is one of my favourite quick weeknight meals when I want to indulge in a bowl of pasta. Again, all there is to this very satisfying dish are a handful of ingredients you can add to or subtract from. Pasta being the key ingredient is something you cannot do without and the type you choose is entirely up to you. Last night, I picked up this peculiar tripe-resembling variety called spugnole for an extravagant sum of $14.00 per kilo. I know this is extremely indulgent especially during "such difficult times we live in", but it is one of the few things I afford myself in place of jewels and overpriced sandals, both of which I too am very fond of.

So as I was saying, pick a pasta that pleases you and while you have it boiling in a pot, you can start preparing the other items that go in the dish. Autumn is a great time for mushrooms so try a variety or go for some "meaty" field mushrooms. Although baby spinach is a convenient option because its tender leaves wilt in an instant when it comes in contact with the searing heat of the pan, I quite enjoy silverbeet too. The latter takes a little longer to cook but I find it packs a bit more in texture and vegetal flavour. Swiss chard is another good vegetable to use as it contributes both flavour and colour to the dish.

The time it takes for the pasta to cook, you can saute some chopped garlic and chilli in a pan with the mushrooms until they become soft. Add to this a good splash of dry white wine or sherry, some seasoning then the drained pasta and baby leaves. As I don't always have cheese in my fridge, I often stir a healthy dollop of creme fraiche, light sour cream or yogurt through my pasta or risotto dishes towards the end. I know it isn't the tradition (especially with yogurt) but I find the light creaminess and tang of these products is a pleasant change and doesn't overpower the other flavours of the dish. These creams form a smooth velvety sauce that is pleasingly thick enough to cling to the pasta.

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