Idk about you, but when I think of baked pasta, I think of cozy, cuddly, stay in and never leave weather. And believe it or not, yesterday LA got a giant dose of that weather. I pulled out my black Hunter rain boots, black Patagonia rain jacket, and yes, my black activewear, and braved the weather with glee. Partially because we never get that kind of weather here so it was pretty exciting, but mainly because I needed more hot cocoa mix (#priorities). What I really should have done was stay in all day, snuggle up with a good book, Vienna, and treated myself to an individually portioned baked triple (!!!) mushroom and kale (healthy!!) pasta cocotte in bed. Lucky for you, I've now pointed out all my mistakes so that you don't have to repeat them. While I can't share Vienna with you, I can definitely share these yummy mini baked pastas with you!!
Start by picking out a pasta shape that the sauce can really hold on to. I highly recommend campanelle because it's a rigid pasta that's shaped like a cone and on top of that it's got a fun ruffled edge. It also reminds Moses of a Spanish dancer and I've got to admit he's pretty spot on. If you can't find it, rotini is also a great choice. The trick to good baked pasta is making sure to cook your pasta super al dente. Start checking it after boiling it for 5 minutes. You really don't want to overcook it before tossing it with your cream sauce because that'll leave you with squishy, overcooked noodles and who wants that.
The next secret to success is varying it up with the mushrooms. I used bunapi (white beech), maitake (hen of the woods), and a combination of fresh and dried shiitake. The combo of the three different mushrooms as well as the use of both fresh and dried shiitakes is what gives this dish extra depth. Each bite is unique and exciting, filled with wonderful textures and flavors. And the addition of mushroom broth to the cream sauce adds that extra umami that makes it extra yum. Throw in some pancetta, chopped alliums of your choice (I went with leeks and green onions cause that's what I had), a bit of garlic, lemon, and a handful of kale and you've got a pretty sweet baked pasta in the works. Oh and thyme. Don't forget the thyme!!
Toss it all up with some cheese, top it with some panko and grated parmesan for a bit of cheese crunch and you're golden. If you're like me and need each bite to have that perfect crunch to saucy mushroom pasta ratio, I highly recommend you divvy up your portions into individual cocottes or ramekins. If that's less important to you, feel free to bake it in a larger casserole dish. Whatever you do, feel free to make this your own. Mix or sub in the things you love and make this dish extra custom cozy! Stay warm friends!
Baked Triple Mushroom and Kale Pasta
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 ounce dried shiitake
- Boiling water
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 7 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 oz. sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large leek, trimmed, halved, cleaned, and thinly sliced
- 4 green onion stalks, sliced
- 1 lb. fresh mixed mushrooms (like white bunapi, maitake, and shiitake) cleaned and sliced or diced (as necessary)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bunch dino kale, deboned and torn into bite sized pieces
- Zest of one lemon plus 1 Tbsp. juice
- 12 oz. dried campanelle or rotini pasta
- 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c. whole milk
- 1/2 c. reserved mushroom liquid/broth
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 3 sprigs thyme, finely chopped plus more for garnish
- 10 oz. sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 6 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 c. panko-style bread crumbs
- Large cast iron pan
- Medium saucepan
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Kitchen scale
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Wooden spoon
- Slotted spoon
- Large mixing bowl
- Mini cocottes or casserole dish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter mini cocottes or casserole dish. Soak dried shiitake in 2 cups of boiling water until softened, about 15 minutes. Rinse the shiitake to remove any grit, then drain and chop them. Reserve 1/2 a cup of the soaking liquid/mushroom broth. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, the reduce heat and to keep it at a low simmer.
- In a large, deep skillet, add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and fry the pancetta over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter and add the leek and green onions. Increase heat to medium and cook for 1 to 2 minutes then add the mushrooms and cook until most of the moisture has cooked off and the mushrooms have browned, around 10 minutes. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Add kale and lemon zest to the pan and cook for 1 to two minutes or until wilted. Transfer to large bowl.
- Bring water back to a boil and cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain very well. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add flour, cooking over medium-high heat, stirring, until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Cook for around 4 minutes, or until thickened then add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the sauce to the bowl with the mushrooms and kale.
- Add the pasta to the bowl with cheddar, half of the parmesan, pancetta, chopped thyme, and a tablespoon of lemon juice and toss well. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish(es). In a bowl, combine the panko and remaining parmesan, then sprinkle over dish(es). Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme and dot the top(s) with remaining butter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until heated through and slightly crispy on the edges.
- Preheat the broiler. Broil the pasta for 2 minutes, until the top is golden. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!