Penne is a nice heavy pasta, tubular in shape, the ends are cut diagonally on the bias. It lends itself to all kinds of saucing and preparation. This mushroom penne recipe takes advantage of the firm weight and texture of the noodle and contrasts it with the soft texture of the cooked mushrooms.
We won’t simmer it in the sauce per se, as we usually like to do to meld all the flavors. We will toss the cooked ingredients together for a minute or so, adding some of the pasta water to keep the dish moist. The result will be a light dish relative to many pasta dishes. The flavors will come from the mushrooms, mild garlic and the Italian parsley.
You can use whatever fresh mushroom you choose. Our favorite is a cremini mushroom also known as a ‘baby bella’, because they will mature into the Portabella mushroom. You can use the mature version too, just adjust your cutting style to size them similarly. Button mushrooms, by far the most common in the grocery produce department, are the baby mushroom in the growth pattern. So, all three types are the same variety, but the maturity gives different flavors and textures. Mildest and softest are the buttons, which get meatier and more flavorful as they mature.
Washing mushrooms is a delicate topic. Generally, you just brush the mushrooms clean and call it good. With more soiled situations you can certainly wash them. And, store bought mushrooms do fine with a quick rinse and gentle swishing when submerged in water. After the rinse toss them in a strainer to shake off the excess water then put them on a towel or paper towel to dry further. The absolute must do aspect of this is to only rinse them immediately before use, and only what you will use. You will get bad results if you try to store them after the rinse.
There is more than one kind of parsley. You can always find the curly leaf parsley that is generally used only as a garnish, either chopped or as sprigs. Flat leaf parsley is generally known as Italian parsley and carries with it more flavors, often appearing in dishes such as this, as a component instead of a garnish.
Cilantro, while it looks very similar is distantly related, but is also the leaf structure from the coriander plant. It carries a completely different flavor profile, and will overpower delicate dishes if you are not careful. It makes for a one-way substitution in general. You can use parsleys in place of cilantro with little affect besides a slightly milder outcome. It doesn’t work the other way as cilantro is prone to stealing the show with stronger tastes.
Even though it is properly pronounced in the hoity toity fashion; on-deeve, this is a fun little plant to play with. It hails from the lettuce family but with a sturdier structure, a unique shape and a stronger flavor, tending toward a mild bitterness. Unlike many lettuces though, it lends itself well to being cooked without disintegrating.
When you are shopping, look for a tight conical shape that shades from very pale at the base to a medium yellowish hue at the tips. Store it unwashed in the fridge until you are ready to use it. When that time comes, wash it gently and peel off any leaves with browning or such.
Mushroom Penne Served with braised endive
- 1 Pound Penne pasta
- 1 - ½ Pounds Mushrooms
- 1 Bunch Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
- 6 Tablespoons Olive oil divided
- 4 Garlic cloves divided
- Black pepper
- 4 Belgian endive
- 1 Bunch Thyme
- 2 Bay leaves
- Fill the pasta pot 2/3 with water, add 2 tbsps. salt and put over high heat
- Rinse the mushrooms of needed
- Trim the ends and slice the mushrooms to a ¼ inch thickness
- Rinse the parsley, pat dry, pluck 1 cup leaves.
- Separate 10 individual thyme sprigs
- Peel the garlic cloves
- Leave 2 cloves garlic whole, cut the other 2 cloves into thick slices lengthwise
- Trim any brown from the base of the endive, and discard any damaged leaves
- Cut each of them in half lengthwise
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat
- When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the mushrooms
- Season with salt and pepper, cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes
- Mince the parsley and the 2 whole garlic cloves together and cover
- Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until it is al dente, 7-12 minutes
- Put 1 tbsp. olive oil in a different skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium high heat
- Set the endive in the pan, cut side down
- Strew the endive with the 10 thyme sprigs, 2 bay leaves, the 2 cloves garlic that are cut in slices
- Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the endive skillet
- Pour 3 tbsps. water over the endive
- When the endive begins to sizzle, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 7 minutes
- Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and the garlic and parsley mixture to the mushrooms
- Stir occasionally and cook for 2 more minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and slightly golden
- Remove them from the heat.
- Check the endive, they should be getting nice and golden on the cut side and tender through
- Remove the lid so all the liquid can cook away and the endives can caramelize further
- The pasta should be al dente, drain it, saving a cup of the cooking liquid
- Put the pasta in a large bowl, add the mushroom mix and 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add 2-3 Tablespoons pasta water to the bowl and toss repeatedly
- Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste
- If the pasta is dry, add additional pasta cooking liquid until it’s the way you like it, toss again.
- Transfer the endive to the plates, discarding the herbs, but keeping the garlic
- Toss the pasta one last time and serve to the plates
- Serve the plates, pour the wine and enjoy!
See more of our pasta dishes here.