Monday, September 3, 2012

Big Pasta with Mushroom, Parsley, Garlic & Thyme

I know...the title itself is a mouthful. I would have just called it plain Vegetarian Baked Pasta. This recipe came from Nigella Lawson's Feast and it ensues the baked rigatoni for meat-lovers from the previous page. Our family love butter-sautéed mushrooms with garlic on toast. So, baking this for Sunday lunch was a no-brainer. But working out the right quantity was a lot of brain. Nigella's recipe was to feed 16! I halved the béchamel and mushroom mixture recipes, and used only one 500gm packet of pasta (recipe called for three). I ended up baking the pasta in a 20cm dish and six large ramekins. If you're going to do this, make sure you have a large party or freeze the rest (like I did) for a weekday lunch. Cooking the white sauce may be a bit daunting for beginners but you have to start sometime because lots of comforting food involves béchamel...and even better, cheesy béchamel. Always get the roux right first. Set the stove on low fire, melt the butter and add the flour. Sprinkling them into the pan while constantly whisking helps. When you see a nice paste, add the milk. Never stop whisking. No need for vigorous whisking just a gentle and steady hand will do. Increase the heat a bit and continue whisking till it thickens. Let it come to a boil but not over-flowing it and take the sauce off the heat. You'll have a beautiful sauce for your pasta. The other thing I changed here was using three cheeses to top the pasta mixture instead of one. Less salty with less parmesan, richer with cheddar and great browning with stringy mozarella.

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