Let’s talk risotto. Risotto and I have an awkward history. A few Christmases ago, I thought it’d be a fantastic idea to add risotto to our Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. As I was prepping, cooking and juggling five dishes, I started the risotto and between ladling chicken stock in the pot and doing random other things, I totally overcooked it, and it turned into a dry, rubbery, gross mess. Once I realized I messed up the one dish I was most excited about, I had a breakdown. A total kitchen breakdown. My lovely family felt so bad about my breakdown that they ate the gross risotto anyway….as they laughed, of course. So needless to say, me + risotto = not friends. BUT, me + pasta, risotto style = BFF. I’ll explain…
There aren’t many recipes that totally transform the way I eat. I mean, I try a lot of stuff and methods to cooking things, but rarely do I ever make a recipe over and over again. This recipe totally did it for me. It’s the one recipe I repeat at least once a week. Why? It’s super adaptable. Literally you can put anything you want in it. Have some scraps from a rotisserie chicken in the fridge? This is the recipe for you. Have some extra vegetables without a purpose? Their home is in this dish. Have that awkward amount of cheese (ricotta, marscapone, etc)? Put it in this thing. It’s also quick, but at the same time I wouldn’t feel shy about serving this to guests. Basically, it’s a huuuuge step up from the sometimes bowl of cereal I have for dinner.
I’m sure a lot of people might say that cooking pasta in a pot of boiling water is way easier, and it is, but the flavor isn’t as great. Since the pasta “drinks” the stock, the flavor is richer and a bit creamier, sans cheese.
Lastly, say you have no vegetables, no cool chicken, then all is good. Pasta cooked in chicken stock (or vegetable) with a little salt, pepper and grated cheese = very cool meal. If I could give any college kid a recipe, it’d be this one for sure.
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman
Since it’s Spring (!!) I decided that a lemon pasta would be great. I added these cremini mushrooms, lemon zest, lemon juice and halved a few heirloom cherry tomatoes. I’ve made this dish a lot with various ingredients, but this combination is by far my favorite
Yields 2 servings
4 tablespoons of olive oil, and more as needed
1 shallot (or small onion), chopped
1 tablespoon of garlic, minced
2 cups of cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/2 pound cut pasta like penne gemelli, or long pasta broken into bits
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (or add to taste)
3-4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1/2 cup of dry white wine or water (I used water)
zest of half of a lemon
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
Chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated parmesan
Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When hot, add shallot, garlic and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms soften and begin to brown on edges, about 10 minutes. Add remaining olive oil and then add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then wine (or water). Stir and let liquid bubble away. Note: if you’re using a chicken stock that is high in salt, then I’d add the salt toward the end.
Ladle stock into skillet 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When liquid is just about evaporated, add more. Mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep heat at medium and stir frequently. Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
Begin tasting pasta 10 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with a tiny bit of crunch. When pasta is about 2 to 3 minutes away from being done, add tomatoes and stir to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and Parmesan if using, and serve.