Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fettuccine With Mushrooms And Artichokes

While visiting my in-laws in Wyoming a few years back, we had a dish from a local restaurant. They just called it Fettuccine Alfredo, but it wasn't your run of the mill Fettuccine Alfredo. In addition to the noodles and creamy white sauce, it also had small, whole mushrooms and artichoke hearts. I was a little weary at first. I mean - why mess with a classic? Fettuccine Alredo is famous for a reason - fattening, creamy, lucious sauce dripping over startchy long noodles that you can't help but get all over yourself when you're eating. Innevitably one of the noodles will come up and smack the side of your mouth as your slirping it through your lips. I can't remember a time that I have enjoyed this classic dish and not had a napkin with smears of cream sauce on it, from wiping my satisfied mouth.
But . . . I can't argue with the result. This new twist, was definitely a tasty dish, and one that I have recreated quite a few times. It has some textural contrast and bite to it, thanks to the large chunks of mushrooms. And there is also a slight tang that comes from the brine of the artichoke hearts. It's quite pleasant.
Sometimes I will opt for the full fat version with cream, and other times (like tonight) I will make it a little healthier by making it with non-fat milk.  Either way it's a quick and delicious vegetarian meal for any of my hectic nights.
Anytime I can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes, I'm all in!

Here's how I put it together:

I dice 1/2 an onion,

and put it into a large saute pan with 1/2 stick of butter.

Then I get two garlic cloves,

smash them with the side of my knife, and take the peels off.

Then I mince the garlic, and put it in the pan with the onions and butter.

While the onion and garlic cook, I get out some mushrooms. Today I have large ones I found at Costco. I give them a quick wipe-down to get off any dirt.

Then I snap the stems off. (You can save the for making veggie stock, or whatever you wish.)

I cut the mushroom tops into large chunks. (I want them to have a strong presence in the dish.)

I add the mushrooms to the saute pan, and let them brown up a bit.

I put a large pot of water on the stove. When it came up to a boil, I salted it generously.

And I dropped 1 box of fettuccine in. Stirred it and then went back to the sauce. - Dinner's almost done. Isn't it great?

When the mushrooms are brown, I add 1/4 cup of flour, and stir it around so everything is coated.

Then I slowly add in 2 cups of milk. (I'm using non-fat to cut down on fat and calories but you can use what you would like.) It's important to whisk as you add the milk, so you don't get any lumps.

Now I add my salt. - I didn't add it earlier, because then the mushrooms wouldn't have browned so well. I also add a little freshly ground pepper here. (White or black, you decide. I won't yell at you for having black flecks in your white sauce.)

When the sauce is thick and bubbly, the noodles will be done (about 6 minutes). Just drain the noodles, but RESERVE 2 cups of the pasta water for later! Add the noodles to the sauce and use a pair of tongs to coat everything.

This is when I get my artichokes. I used the canned version, in water, but you can use frozen ones as well. You'll just want to defrost them first.  You don't have to get the kind with the funny little French man on the front, it was just the cheapest kind in the store that day. 
 I make this one of my pantry staples. I have at least 2 cans at all times. They are wonderful for making quick pastas, casseroles, dips and pizzas. Definitely a must have in our house. 

I drain them and dump them on a cutting board.

Then I cut each artichoke heart in half; any smaller and they would just fall apart.  You want to be able to see them, and have them hold their integrity in the finished dish.

I add all the artichokes to the noodles and sauce, and add 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. (I still have 1 cup reserved for later if the pasta gets too dry.)

I toss everything to coat and we are in the home stretch.

The last thing to do is grate some cheese. I used Pecorino Romano, but Parmesan would work too.  I put about 1/2 cup in the pasta dish, and then reserve a little for sprinkling on top.

Here's the recipe:

Fettuccine With Mushrooms and Artichokes

1 pound fettuccine
6 -8 oz of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 13-14 oz can on artichoke hearts in water, drained an cut in half
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 cups milk
1-2 cups pasta water (from cooking the fettuccine)
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for top

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, add the butter, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat. When the water is boiling, add a good amount of salt and the fettuccine. Stir and boil for 6 minutes. When the onions are soft and the mushrooms are brown, add the flour and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt and pepper. When the sauce is smooth, thick and bubbly the pasta should be done. Drain the noodles but reserve 2 cups of the starchy pasta water. Add the noodles to the sauce and combine, turn the heat down to low. Stir in the artichoke hearts and 1 cup of the pasta water (keep the other cup to add later, if the pasta gets dry.) Turn off the heat, add the Romano cheese and stir. Plate and add a little more cheese on top.

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