My school has just opened it’s new and improved canteen last week. I have taken advantage of the faculty discount and enjoyed the daily lunches. This has made it a bit easier for me to prepare my home meals. Moreover, I am not easily bored now by what I cook because I only eat it for dinner versus twice a day. Living on my own has taught me quite a bit about managing weekly menus. It was challenging in the beginning because I was accustomed to prepping family-style meals back home in the States. Vegetables here also go bad quicker - thanks to the lack of preservatives, etc. in the food. Nevertheless, I’ve trained myself to shop for most produce that will be eaten within few days.
This weekend my taste buds fancied a cream sauce dish. Quick, fresh and very easy to prepare. This is quite similar to a penne ala vodka - but I didn’t feel like trekking to the liquor store to get a cheap bottle of Uzbek moonshine so I left it out and it still came out quite good.
- 1 box pennete (mini penne) or regular penne
- 1 tomato - diced
- 1 13oz bottled tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup cream
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4-6 fresh basil leaves for garnish (the basil used in this recipe was fresh from my own plants)
- 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
- 1-2 cups button mushrooms sliced (depending on how chunky you like it)
- cracked pepper
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- In a stock pot, bring salted water to boil and cook pasta until it’s al dente (8-10 minutes). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. When cooked, drain pasta and set aside.
- Heat a skillet on medium heat and add olive oil.
- Saute garlic until it becomes aromatic.
- Add mushrooms and coat them evenly in the oil and garlic. Throw in a couple pinches of salt.
- When mushrooms are browned, add the tomato sauce. Throw in a few more pinches of salt and cracked pepper.
- Once the tomato sauce reaches a simmer, add the cream and parmigiano. Stir to blend the cheese and cream into the sauce evenly. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the fresh diced tomato and reserved pasta water, lower the heat, and allow it to simmer for a 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will also allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.
- In a large bowl mix pasta and sauce together. Roughly cut or tear basil into pieces in the mix as a garnish. Salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy with fresh grated parmigiano reggiano on top, a crusty slice of bread and/or salad. Makes 6 servings. This also goes well with any protein - sauteed italian sausage, bacon, or chicken breast.