Monday, April 2, 2012

Homemade Spinach Fettuccine with Mega Mushroom Sauce, Meatless or Not

Homemade Whole Wheat Spinach Fettuccine
Every now and then, an old memory comes up and smacks you on your head. You know the kinds that say ”Hey, you know it’s a long time since you thought about me, so now DO something!” This is one of those thoughts that just happens to have a recipe or two attached.

About 10 years ago, during a long drive home from an auction with a couple of friends, the conversation turned to what each of us was going to fix for dinner that night. One said she was going to make something her mother used to make often when she was a kid, and that she hadn’t made in quite a while. A pasta dish made with ground beef, sliced mushrooms and a packet of onion and mushroom soup mix. You could have knocked me down with a feather, because my Mom used to make this too, and I’d thought she’s invented it. I hadn’t had it in years. It was a rich, woodsy, mushroom-y dish that was not tomato based, a thing practically unheard of back in the 1970’s when my mother served it. It’s also fast and really easy.

Of course I had to make it as soon as I could. With a few, ahem, changes. You can use a packet of soup mix, which is the easiest and original, or the substitution (which I use) since I try to avoid processed products loaded with things I can’t pronounce. This, easily and deliciously, can be made without meat and also gluten free, especially since many folks are vegetarians, or simply abstain from meat for Lent or during this Easter week. Just see the note at the top of the recipe.

Serve over wide whole wheat pasta, brown rice or wild rice, unless you want to serve it my favorite way, over fresh, home made, wide whole wheat-spinach fettuccine.  The recipe for the fettuccine follows after the mushroom sauce. Oh, it's so good, I can’t wait until dinner!

Mushroom Lover's Mega Mushroom Sauce

Mushroom Lover’s Mega Mushroom  Sauce

Note: The dried porcinis need to soak for 30-60 minutes, prior to cooking the sauce. If you would like to make a meatless version, omit the meat, and use 1-1/2 pounds of sliced fresh mushrooms, water or mushroom stock, and be sure your mushroom base is vegetarian /vegan and gluten-free, if you need it to be.

2T olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup water for 30-60 minutes, then chopped (reserve liquid)
8 oz sliced white or baby portabella or cremini mushrooms
1 packet onion and mushroom soup mix (OR 2 teaspoons of natural mushroom soup base, and ¼ cup dried minced onion)
1-1/2 TBS Italian Seasoning or 1 tsp. each: oregano, marjoram, thyme and rosemary
2 c low-sodium stock of choice, or water
1/4 c dry sherry or dry vermouth
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh, minced parsley
Salt if needed
Grated pecorino for the table, if desired

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan on medium-high. Brown the meat with onions and garlic, breaking up meat. Add all the mushrooms, reserving the mushroom soaking liquid. Add the mushroom liquid, discarding the sediment at the bottom of the cup. Mix in the soup mix or the alternative, and the Italian seasoning, and then add the stock and sherry or vermouth and black pepper to taste.

Reduce the heat to medium and boil gently until thick enough that you can make a path with a spoon to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the parsley. Taste for salt and season if needed. Can pass grated Italian cheese at the table, if you want.

Serves 4-6

Eggs, spinach, salt and oil to start...

Whole Wheat Spinach Pasta

Note: I’m using white whole wheat flour from the King Arthur Flour company here as the lighter color gives a prettier green finished product. You may also need more or less flour depending on variables like the humidity, how you’ve measured it, and how much moisture there is in your eggs and spinach. The hand-cranked pasta machine you’ll need for rolling and cutting is available from Kitchen Kapers; mine came from them at least 20 years ago and it’s a very handy little kitchen slave.  The finished pasta freezes extremely well, but will also keep in the refrigerator, dusted with flour and gently coiled in a zip top bag.

3 large eggs
Big pinch of kosher salt
8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed really dry
1T extra virgin olive oil
2-1/2 (approx.) cups of white whole wheat flour (King Arthur is the most widely available.)
Extra flour for rolling, cutting and storing
1-2 quart sized zip top plastic bags

Place the eggs, salt, the well-squeezed spinach and the olive oil in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade. Process for about a minute to 1-1/2 minutes until the mixture is homogenous, and the spinach is minced. If the spinach pieces are too large, it’ll be hard to cut the rolled pasta sheets.

Looks like just enough white whole wheat flour now...

Add 1 cup of flour and process until mixed. Add another ½ cup and process for about 15 seconds. If the dough looks pebbly, squeeze some together and see if it holds, it’s likely very sticky at this point, so add another ½ cup and process until a ball of dough forms on one of the blade. There will probably be some crumbly dough in there as well.  Feel the dough; it should be soft and moist, but not very sticky. Add more flour as needed, this time a tablespoon at a time and process between additions.

When the dough is soft and pliable, but not overly sticky, process it for about 10 seconds, then carefully remove the dough, form it into a flattened ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let it rest at least a half hour or longer before proceeding to roll and cut.

Let that dough's tired!

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and rewrap  three of them back into the plastic. Flatten the small piece of dough a bit and dust lightly with flour if it’s sticky. Set the rollers on your pasta machine to the widest setting, and feed the dough through. Fold the sheet in half and repeat. Then, make the opening one notch smaller. Repeat the process until you are down to the next to the narrowest setting, run the dough through, and then run it through the fettuccine cutter. 

Rolled, cut and ready to cook.

Dust the strands very lightly with flour, spread them out on a clean kitchen towel, and dust lightly again with more flour. Toss the strands every once in a while you make the rest. Repeat with the remaining three lumps of dough. Let the past dry slightly for about an hour, tossing occasionally to keep the strands from sticking together.. To cook, bring a big pot of well-salted water to a boil, drop in fettuccine, and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain and serve. If you are not going to cook immediately, toss again lightly with flour, slip into a zip top bag and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze.

Makes 6 servings  

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