Pasta like Risotto

A few days back now, Mark Bittman (my personal favorite food writer/enthusiast) wrote a piece on his Minimalist column in the New York Times about cooking pasta risotto style.  This interested me quite a bit, so last night Evan, Meg, Roxy and I gave it a whirl and low and behold, the stuff is fucking delicious.

I am a relatively recent convert to the whole risotto thing and owe much of my enjoyment of it to meals prepared/ate with Meg and Evan.  The little fat grained rice grains carefully prepared so that their starches make a kind of creamy sauce provides a delightful and feeling addition to any meal.  We have found that risotto is particularly pleasant with mushrooms, including some of the wild edibles Evan and I have found (remember, never eat any wild mushrooms unless you are 100% certain of the identification.  Uncertainty is just not worth the possible risk).  While a bit time consuming and labor intensive to prepare, the extra effort really pays off.  Risotto is incredibly rich in flavor and also very filling (what my folks would describe as “stick to your ribs” food).

So when I saw Mr. Bittman’s piece on preparing pasta in the same fashion as risotto I was quite interested.  The ingredients which we used last night were the following:

  • 1 lb of Penne rigate pasta
  • Butter
  • Vegetable oil (would have used olive oil, but didn’t have any)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-sized sweet onion
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1 package of baby bella mushrooms (just young portobellos, which are themselves older button mushrooms)
  • 1.5 lbs of de-shelled shrimp
  • A splash or two of cooking sherry
  • Vegetable stock/broth (added till pasta was done, not carefully measured)

The basic procedure goes something like this.  Melt butter in a pot and once it gets hot add the chopped onion and garlic and let saute for a little while.  Once that starts smelling pretty fucking good pour in the pasta (and yes, it should be dry) and the cooking sherry (or white wine if you don’t have sherry).  Then add a little stock/broth, about half a cup or so (you can use chicken stock/broth if you do not like or have the vegetable kind).  Stir pasta continually adding more stock/broth every couple minutes as it is absorbed by the noodles.  You are looking to get the pasta nice and al dente with a creamy sauce around it (this is produced through the mixing of the starches and the stock/broth).  On another burner we cooked up some more garlic, the green pepper, mushrooms, and shrimp, flavoring it all with black pepper, salt, some crushed chili pepper, and a bit of crushed basil.  When both the pasta and the shrimp are done combine the two together and feel free to add some more salt and pepper as desired.

Honestly I cannot sing enough praise about how this turned out.  Evan and I both said that we might never just boil pasta again (only half jokingly).  Yes there is a bit more work involved, but really this is marginal when you consider the amount of flavor and texture created through the process.  And as Mr. Bittman points out in the video accompanying his article, besides the pasta and stock/broth, pretty much all the ingredients can be replaced with something else to create a wide number of variations.

To go along with our risotto style pasta and shrimp dish we also roasted some brocoli and squash (some unknown type of winter squash with a very sweet flavor).  We also chose to drink a number of home brewed beers, including my last Dark Rye (possibly my favorite beer I have made to date), my Nut Brown Ale and Belgian Witbier, and Evan’s Dubbel and his Oak Aged Bourbon Old Ale (which I will say, unabashedly, is quite probably the best home brewed beer I have ever tasted.  Could easily put to shame a great number of good craft brews available commercially).

A wondrous meal.  We listened to British reggae and ska (just think The Specials and you’ll get the idea) while we cooked and ate.

~ by Nathaniel on December 3, 2009.

One Response to “Pasta like Risotto”

  1. Last night I made another variation of this dish, this time with broccoli and red beell pepper and tomato. I also added a little heavy cream and some parmasean cheese to the pasta to create a slightly alfredo flavor. Instead of cooking sherry I used Pinot Grigio.

    Again a fantastic meal. It will continue to be made in a wide variety.

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