Wish Upon A Dish: Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-One - Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce

December 10, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Twenty-One - Pasta with Mushroom Cream Sauce

As much as I have weaned my shopping list and cut way back on my food buying, I have found that the buying may not be my only problem. Six days ago I started with a lean mean freezing machine and now, when I opened the door to put my three containers of stock inside, I had to move and rearrange the items in there to make room. Where did all that space go?

This Saturday, before I go food shopping I will be taking an inventory of all the bags and containers of food in both the fridge and freezer and creating dishes to GET THEM THE NECK OUT OF THERE!!!

I'm not quite sure The Nudge will buy my "I've really been good at buying, just bad at applying" theory. He just teased me the other day because he couldn't find the limes amongst all that food! Can't fault a girl for trying.

I have 5 bags of dried mushrooms hanging in a basket and I think it's time to use a few up.
The inspiration for this dish came from America's Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook.
I was looking for an easy, cheap meal that I already had mostly all the ingredients for in my pantry and this was one of a few.

Dried mushrooms may seem expensive per pound but since only ounces are used (usually 2oz per recipe), that's about $2.50. Combine that with about $1.00's worth of pasta and $ .50 worth or cream, you can feed four for $1.00 each and feed them well. Dried mushrooms are underused and underrated. Pop them into your spice grinder and pulverize them and then go have some fun. Add them to eggs (not quite a truffle but close enough), add a pinch to gravies and sauces and sprinkle them right on top of a filet mignon. They say mushrooms are Unami and at 0 calories, fat and carbs, it is my best kept secret. (you can order mushroom powder at The Spice House)

To get the ounce of mushrooms I need for two servings I am using a mixture of dried porcinis and morels. Two mushrooms that can stand on their own.

I suggest you use the processor or blender to mince the onions, just pulse until they are minced but not pureed. If there is no processor or blender I would suggest grating them but you will have to squeeze out any excess liquid.

I am using radiatori pasta. The more ridges the more sauce will cling and since the sauce is not chunky, it makes the perfect sauce delivery system. You could also use fusilli, rotelle or campanelle, anything with curls and swirls to trap the sauce.

Pasta with Porcini Cream Sauce
Serves 4-6
* 1 cup water + 1/2 cup sherry
* 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 teaspoon roasted garlic paste
* 2 onions, chopped fine
* Salt & pepper
* 1/2 cup heavy cream
* 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
* 1 pound swirly pasta
* 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

1. Microwave water/sherry mix and porcini in covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms through fine-mesh strainer lined with coffee filter: reserve liquid and chop mushrooms into 3/4-inch pieces.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and 1/4 teaspoons salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in strained mushroom liquid, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream, thyme and garlic and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add sauce and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with salt & pepper to taste and add reserved cooking water as needed to adjust consistency. Serve with extra Parmesan.

Cost for this meal: $ 1.91
Running total for 21 days: $69.77

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