This vegetarian pasta dish gains it richness from seasonal mushrooms, particularly during the wet, rainy months. I like to use--when available--a combination of morels, criminis and shiktakes. Go light on the latter as they tend to have a lot of flavor!. The chili flakes and touch of heavy cream help bind the dish perfectly, and without the addition of cheese.
Ingredients (serves 6):
-1 pound fresh tagliatelle or dried fettucine
-1 tablespoon chili flakes
-Extra virgin olive oil
-1.5 cups fresh morels, cut in half and cleaned of any grit
-1 cup shitake mushrooms, cut into small pieces
-1.5 cups crimini mushrooms, cut in half or thirds if large
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 cup English peas if in season (these can be omitted)
In a large heavy saute pan heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the shitakes and sauté for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the criminis and morels and toss through. Once the mushrooms begin to caramelize and brown (if the pan becomes too dry add more oil) lower the heat to medium. Add a bit of salt and the chili flakes. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are a nice golden brown color.
Add the cream to the pan and turn up the heat to high. Cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly thickened. Add the peas and stir though. Drop your pasta into a large pot of salted water. If using fresh tagliatelle cook for 1 minute. If using dry pasta cook according to the package instructions and remove 1.5 minutes prior. Using tongs transfer to the pan with the mushrooms and cream and toss over high heat until well dressed and the pasta sauce has reduced to a thick consistency. If ever your sauce becomes too reduced or tight add a little pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com