• Servings: 2
  • Time: 0hr 25mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Mushroom Marsala with Penne Pasta

This is so satisfying.

One of the things I love about this recipe is its versatility. It makes a lovely entrée or a sumptuous side, and it even steps in as a sauce when the pasta is omitted.

Sometimes I add chives for a boost of color. A little green just makes a more lively presentation.

1 1/2 quarts water In a 3-quart tri-ply saucepan bring pasta water to a rolling boil over high heat (6-8 minutes). Turbulent water helps prevent gummy pasta.
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot (if a substitution is required, use 4 teaspoons minced green onion, white part only, plus 2 teaspoons minced garlic) Meanwhile, prepare and set aside.
Tip: With shallot on its side, cut off and discard both ends. Cut in half from pole to pole; peel off any layers that look dry or tough; discard. Place cut sides down and slice to 1/8-inch, holding the pieces together as you work. Cut across slices to dice.
A shallot looks like a tiny red onion. Its flavor is a cross between onion and garlic, and its texture is so fine that it virtually disappears into the sauce during cooking.
8 ounces button or crimini mushrooms, sliced Set aside.
Tip: Brush off any soil from mushrooms with a pastry brush. Cut in half from top to bottom, place cut sides down and slice to 1/4-inch.
Washing mushrooms makes them slimy.
4 ounces dry penne Add pasta to the now boiling water; briefly stir to separate the pieces. When boiling resumes, reduce heat to hold at a low rolling boil until pasta is al dente (as per package). Strain thoroughly, return to the pan and cover with a lint-free dishcloth. A cloth keeps pasta warm and moist without holding in excess cooking heat or steam.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter Meanwhile, circulate butter in a 12-inch tri-ply sauteuse/everyday pan over medium heat to evenly coat the base. As it begins to foam (2-3 minutes), add mushrooms in an even layer. Cook until browned and liquid is released, turning just once half way through with a bamboo spatula (6-8 minutes total). Mushrooms cooked undisturbed brown nicely. As they brown, they will give up enough moisture to keep them from burning. A bamboo spatula offers good coverage, and is gentle on cookware.
1/2 teaspoon thyme or marjoram
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
1/32 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sprinkle seasonings and shallots over mushrooms. Cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
1/2 cup Marsala (sweet, fine) Drizzle 1/4 cup over mushrooms, let half evaporate (30-40 seconds). Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup, let half evaporate again (60-90 seconds). Unnecessary stirring hurts mushroom texture.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Gently stir butter into the mushrooms to melt. Gently stir in the cream just until fully incorporated (20-30 seconds). Add pasta to the pan and gently toss until evenly coated. Serve in shallow serving bowls. The final hit of butter and cream give beautiful body to the sauce.

If serving these mushrooms as a steak sauce, substitute starting the pasta water with heating the grill. Start searing the steaks on the grill while the sauteuse pan is heating. After the Marsala evaporation, follow with a drizzle of jus (French for “juice”) from the resting steaks; finish sauce as directed. Note: For a greater quantity of sauce, increase Marsala by 1/4 cup and heavy whipping cream by 2 tablespoons. Plate the steaks; spoon sauce attractively over top in a diagonal. Garnish with fresh chives for a livelier presentation.