Category Archives: pasta

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

mushroom cream sauce

Have you been finding any mushrooms in the woods lately?

I haven’t. I don’t feel like I know quite enough yet (working on it though, because wandering through a forest + finding food is a dream life), but! I have a few friends who are adept foragers, and I’ve been fortunate enough to reap the benefits of their forays.

Mushrooms are very strange animals (okay, not animals. But, they might be closer to animals than plants). I used to not like them at all, then finally my dad convinced me to try morels (thanks, Dad). Nutty, textured, with a fantastic scent, they’re probably still my favorite, although it’s been a long while.

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(not morels)

Regardless of what else I do with mushrooms, usually the first step is to fry them up in plenty of butter. Some kinds soak it all up immediately, and although others don’t need quite as much, my recommendation is to not skimp on the fat. You don’t want them to burn. Besides, eating more delicious, flavorful foods might prevent you from overeating! How’s that for incentive (we all know that fat is flavor)? In all seriousness, there are some foods that make me feel gross post-consumption (mostly sugary ones), and I have never felt unhappy about this.

Quite the contrary.

This sauce is versatile and can be made with pretty much any mushroom (other vegetables too, for that matter). I sometimes add leeks for extra nuance and spinach to get some greenery in there, but neither are necessary, and if you have spectacular mushrooms I would focus on their flavor instead.

mushroom cream sauce

Creamy mushroom sauce
Butter, plenty of it
2 handfuls of mushrooms, any variety (morels and oyster mushrooms are my favorite)
1/2 to 1 leek, or 1 onion (optional)
A few handfuls of spinach (it will cook down a lot; optional)
Cream: maybe 1/2 cup, depending on how much liquid you want
Salt and pepper

If foraged, check the mushrooms for bugs and brush them off (mushrooms soak up water, so use minimal water). Tear apart with your hands, chop with a sharp knife, or leave whole, depending on the variety and how big they are. Wash and chop leeks, if using—I like mine in thin strips a few inches long. Wash and roughly chop spinach.

If using an onion, thinly slice and caramelize—sauté over high heat stirring frequently, then turn down heat and cook until soft and dark brown. You can add the mushrooms right to this, then continue with the cream.

No onion: melt butter in a pan. Sauté mushrooms over high heat, until they start to brown and soften. Add leeks, and more butter if needed. Stir in salt to taste. When leeks are soft (this will take some time), pour in cream, stirring, then add the spinach and turn off the heat. The spinach will wilt, the cream will thicken and darken from the mushroom coloring, and the whole thing will have this mouth-watering dark rich smell.

Serve over pasta, or whatever else you like eating with creamy deliciousness, and crack some pepper on top. Shave on some parmesan if you’re feeling it. You will be quite happy.

mushroom cream sauce on pasta

P.S. If you’ve been following some of what I write about the overall food system and are upset about it, here’s 5 things you can do right now. 

Brown Butter Squash Pine Nut Pasta

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Wondering what to make for dinner? Look no further. This is from NYTimes Cooking Newsletter (so, #NYTCooking and all that), one of their no-recipe Wednesday non-recipes. Well, most of my recipes are non-recipes anyway so I’m going to give you one.

I keep telling you to roast squash, so if you get bored of just eating it straight (how could you?), this is a fabulous dish to put it in. Sweet, just a little tangy, tastes nice and toasty. And assuming you have pre-roasted squash and toasted pine nuts on hand (you should), it takes exactly the time for boiling a pot of noodles.

Lemons are one of the few perishable ingredients that I keep around even though I haven’t yet seen them growing in Maine (particularly during the winter). They honestly make everything better. Modernity is good for some things.

I was in a hurry the last couple times I made this (it’s so good I made it one week and then again the next—which I guess makes sense in terms of habit, because most dishes I eat as leftovers for at least one meal and this you just cook what you need), so I’m going to pretend that you are too. (Actually I was in so much of a hurry that I didn’t take a proper photo, I just stuffed it into a jar from the pan to take and eat post-frisbee. Both times.)

Brown butter squash pine nut pasta
Your favorite pasta
3-4 tablespoons butter
A few sage leaves, ripped apart gently
A handful of toasted pine nuts (keep them in the fridge)
Maybe 1/2 roasted squash, in vague chunks (any variety—I think kobocha might be my favorite, but delicata is featured here, nice because you can eat the skin)
Juice from about 1/4 lemon

Start by putting a pot of water on to boil, since this will take the most time. If you have an electric kettle, often that will heat up water faster than a stove, so I like to put both on at the same time and then pour the kettle water into the pot when the kettle boils. Make sure to salt the water—I’ve read varying accounts as to the affect this has on the temperature of the water (not everyone is convinced that a minimal amount of salt will increase the boiling point of the water), but it makes the pasta taste way better, so do it anyway. When boiling, add the pasta to the pot.

Melt the butter in a medium pan with the sage. Carefully keep it over the heat until it begins to brown, swirling gently, then stir in pine nuts and squash, take it off the heat, and swirl in the lemon juice, stopping the cooking process (browning will happen quickly, so be prepared to act). Check the pasta, and drain when done (reserve some cooking liquid to thin the sauce if necessary—I may have told you already but apparently the starch in pasta water helps sauce adhere to pasta, and is a very useful addition to thick sauces). Throw however much pasta you want to eat into the pan with the sauce and mix around, then plate and serve. Top with a little pepper and a little parmesan (or similar) if you feel so inclined. Yuum.