Pasta with Mushrooms and Marsala

Pasta and mushrooms are two of my favorite foods, and cooking them together makes for one of my staple weeknight meals. I pair them with thyme and oregano, lots of black pepper and more than a splash of good Marsala wine. Mushrooms and wine are great friends and Marsala wine, in particular, really brings out the flavor of mushrooms. The dish is finished with a touch of half and half and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Any kind of pasta works here, from shapes like fusilli to long noodles like fettuccine. Virtually any mushrooms will work, too. I normally use a combination of shiitake or oyster mushrooms for flavor and cremini mushrooms for body and cost-savings. Make sure to buy the Marsala wine in a liquor store, not in the supermarket, as the supermarket kind contains added salt.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Marsala
Serves 2

1/2 pound fresh or dried pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 pound mushrooms, cut into pieces if necessary
3/4 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup half and half

1.  Bring a pot of water to boil. Add a handful of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta until it is 1-2 minutes short of al dente and then drain. It will finish cooking later in the sauce.

Fettuccini with Shiitake and Cremini Mushrooms

2.  Meanwhile, heat a deep saute pan large enough to hold the mushrooms and pasta over medium heat. When it is hot, add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add the garlic and herbs and stir for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms with some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender.

3.  Add the Marsala wine to the pan. Use a spoon or spatula to scrape up any mushroom or garlic bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring the wine to a boil and let it reduce for 4-5 minutes. Add the half and half and heat it through, being careful not to let it boil vigorously.

4.  Increase the heat to medium-high and add the pasta. Cook the pasta in the sauce, stirring frequently, until the pasta is done and the sauce has reached the desired consistency, about 1-2 minutes. The pasta will absorb the sauce as you cook it and continue to do so after you take it off the heat, so stop cooking while the sauce remains liquidy.

5.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with ground black pepper, fresh thyme and parmesan cheese.

Total time: 30 minutes.

For more ideas, try our other weeknight pasta dishes: Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage and Homemade Tomato Sauce.

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