Quick Meal: Baby Portabella Mushroom Pasta

I feel like most of my dishes lately have been fussy, time-consuming ones. So, I thought it would be nice to share with you this quick dish I just came up with for lunch today. It literally took me about 30 minutes total.

Sauteeing baby portabellas till they're nice and caramelized. © Miyo Wratten 2013

Sauteeing baby portabellas till they’re nice and caramelized. © Miyo Wratten 2013

From earlier in the week, I had some leftover baby portabella mushrooms in the fridge, and they were really just calling my name. I’ve also been craving pasta, so I figured, why not whip something up that plays into both things?

What I came up with was a nice, simple, clean pasta dish that featured the flavors of the mushrooms. No goopy sauce to distract the tastebuds and fuss over. I do wish we’d had some fresh greens like some spinach or kale around to add another nice, green note to the flavors, but unfortunately we didn’t. I’d recommend tossing some in near the end, when combining mushrooms and pasta in the pan.

I do have two shortcuts in particular that helped with prep time. I’m not sure how much time peeling and chopping up an onion really ends up taking.  These are nice little conveniences though, and ones that I find also keeps us from being wasteful:

Trick #1

You know all those recipes that call for you to use a 1/2 of an onion, or a small onion and all you have is a medium or large one? We used to throw away what we didn’t use … *gasp* I know, not good. My grandmother turned in her grave every time we did it, I’m certain of it. Now, however, what my husband and I have been doing is chopping up what we don’t plan on using, sticking it in a resealable plastic bag, and tucking it into the freezer for future use.

It’s nice for sautées or soups, and comes in handy more often than you might suspect.

Trick #2

This isn’t so much of a trick as it is a handy grocery item, but the pre-minced garlic that comes in jars. I love it. When I feel to hurried or too impatient to sit there and finely mince a bulb of garlic, or wrestle that annoyingly thin skin off of the cloves, I crack the jar open and drop a teaspoon or two of the prepared stuff in there and move on with life.

Something to keep in mind while making this recipe is a trick I learned while watching the movie “Julie & Julia”: Don’t overcrowd the mushrooms in the pan. To allow them to brown up and caramelize nicely, you want to give the mushrooms room to allow the water they contain to seep out and evaporate.

On my first serving (yes, I liked it so much I had more than one), I opted to top off the pasta with some good grated Parmesan cheese. I found, however, that it kind of overtook the dish, so on my second serving, I left it as is. Honestly, it was better without it, but I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Baby Portabella Mushroom Pasta 

My beautiful lunch today, along with some leftover garlic toast my son made us for dinner the other night. © Miyo Wratten 2013

My beautiful lunch today, along with some leftover garlic toast my son made us for dinner the other night. © Miyo Wratten 2013


Serves four, 1-cup servings. Prep and cook times combined, this dish took around 30 minutes to make.

4 cups of cooked linguine or other type of pasta of your choice.
1 cup sliced baby portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup diced onions
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup vegetable broth
4 Tbsp olive oil

1) Boil water and cook pasta, cutting the cooking time down by 2 minutes. So, if the package directions tell you to cook the pasta for 10 minutes, cook only for 8 minutes, then drain and set aside. Prepare the rest of the dish while the pasta is cooking and draining.

2) Slice mushrooms to at most 1/4″ thick pieces. Heat pan over medium-high heat and add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. When pan is hot, add one handful of the sliced mushrooms. Be sure to leave space between the slices so as not to overcrowd the pan. This will ensure nice browning of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and a pinch of the pepper. After about 2 minutes, turn the mushrooms to allow them to begin browning on the other side. After another 2 minutes, mushrooms should have begun to take on a golden-brown color. Move the mushrooms to the edges of the plan, clearing space in the center of the pan for the next batch of mushrooms.

3) Repeat step 2 until all the mushrooms have been fried up, adding oil to the pan with each batch of mushrooms. Be sure to also stir the mushrooms that are at the edges of the pan to keep them from burning.

4) Remove mushrooms from the pan and place on paper towels. If your pan looks dry, add another 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Otherwise, simply add the onions and garlic to the pan. Sautee until the onions are clear and take on a light-golden color but are not caramelized. Add thyme and stir, allow to cook about 10 seconds. As soon as you can smell the thyme, add the vegetable broth. Stir to deglaze the pan and allow the broth to come to simmering.

5) Add partially-cooked pasta and mushrooms into the pan and toss with tongs. Continue tossing until the mushrooms are evenly distributed and most of the broth has been absorbed by the pasta. Serve immediately in bowls.

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