By the end of last year, I’d worked myself into a little bit of a cooking rut. I was making a lot of tomato-rice casseroles, friends. A lot. But working in a cheery collaboration this month really helped get my creative juices flowing again.
I’m a pasta fiend, so was easy to settle on a pasta dish. I wanted to make something rich and comforting for this time of year, but that could also be served for lunch and wouldn’t send you into a food coma afterwards. At Potentino, I’d learned to make a rich, creamy sauce made almost purely from cauliflower, so I decided to to a riff on that. A little chestnut flour in the dough and some gorgeous oyster mushrooms seemed like a perfect pairing, especially with a little parsley to brighten things up.
So, off I set for the grocery store with this single recipe in mind, looking for mushrooms, when a little red sticker happened to catch my eye:
Burrata was 50% off. FIFTY PERCENT OFF. If you’ve never had burrata before, you should know that: a) its name means ‘buttery’ in Italian, b) it’s as though mozzarella di bufala died and went to heaven — a thin, chewy outer layer, filled with the softest, richest, creamiest cheese imaginable, and c) it’s (rightfully) quite expensive. So not only did this cheese sale halt me in my tracks, but I basically ended up clearing them out, giving extras away to friends as a treat.
What’s a food blogger to do? On the one hand, I’d already planned out this fantastic pasta dish — and on the other hand, burrata. So I decided I’d make this two ways, and let you choose whichever you prefer based on your mood, lactose tolerance, or potential dairy discounts in your neighbourhood.
Either way, you get this lovely, nutty pasta pairing with earthy mushrooms and fresh herbs. In either recipe, use a really high quality olive oil, and be generous with it, as with the salt and black pepper. I’ve also included two tips that I learned about pasta making that have dramatically improved every pasta dish I’ve ever made: first, taste the water for boiling pasta, and salt it until it tastes like mild seawater, and second, reserve a cup or so of that starchy water before draining the pasta and use it to thin out your sauce.
I’ll say this: this definitely isn’t the easiest or quickest recipe I’ve ever posted (might I interest you in some pappa al pomodoro instead?). Working with fresh pasta can be a bit tricky, as it involves adding water or flour to your dough until it ‘feels right,’ which requires a bit of prior knowledge of pasta making — or any dough, really. To make things a little easier on yourself, you can always substitute your favourite pre-made fresh or dried pasta — I suggest a whole wheat one for the most similar flavours. Buon appetito!
Oh! Pssst! I also was looking back at all the shots I’d taken throughout the day (many are actually of my friend Maureen — thank for all your help, darling!), and thought they’d make a fun little stop motion video, so I stitched them all together. Feel free to check it out; I think it’s a fun look into how many shots are taken during a day vs. how few make it onto the site!
Comfort in a dish: nutty, homemade fettuccine with oyster mushrooms and either burrata or a cauliflower cream sauce.
For the pasta
190g all-purpose flour
95g chestnut flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
water and flour as needed for consistency
For the burrata pasta
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
300g oyster mushrooms, roughly torn to be equal in size
1 ball (~250g) fresh burrata cheese
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste (but be generous with it!)
drizzle of olive oil
small handful fresh parsley, loosely chopped
optional but excellent: sprinkling of red chili flakes, chopped capers, sprinkling of parmesan
For the cauliflower cream sauce version:
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
juice of 1/3 of a small lemon
drizzle of olive oil
300g oyster mushrooms
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
optional but excellent: sprinkling of red chili flakes
For the pasta
Sift the flours and salt into a large mound on a clean counter or in a bowl. Create a well at the centre of the pile, and crack the eggs and set the yolks into the well. Stir with a fork to break up the eggs, gradually incorporating more and more of the flour until everything is fully mixed. If your dough seems too dry/crumbly to knead at this point, add a tablespoon of water and incorporate it, and continue adding water until the dough just begins to stick together. If your dough is too wet and sticky, sprinkle it with flour until it begins to dry up.
Knead dough (adding more flour or water as necessary) for 10 minutes, until it's smooth and elastic. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.
Divide the dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, press each quarter into a very rough rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Feed each quarter into your pasta roller on the thickest setting, fold it into thirds, and repeat twice more at this setting. Reduce your thickness one stop at a time (running the dough through at each stage) until you get to a 4, which is the perfect thickness for fettuccine.
Either by hand or using the fettuccine cutter attachment, cut each sheet into noodles and toss them with a sprinkle of flour to keep them from sticking together while you roll out the rest of the dough.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. **BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE** taste this water, and add enough salt (usually a couple tablespoons) that it tastes like mild seawater. Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Just before you drain the pasta, scoop out 1 cup of the starchy pasta water -- trust me -- and set it aside.
Drain the pasta in a colander and gently toss it with a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together.
For the burrata pasta
While the pasta is boiling, fry your minced garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until it's no longer raw, about 2-3 minutes. Add your mushrooms and sautee on high heat until they've begun to get golden-brown.
Set the noodles back in the large pot, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of your pasta water. Add your mushrooms, garlic, and fresh parsley, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Taste, and season accordingly with salt and black pepper (and optional chili flakes). Set onto your plates and tear fresh chunks of burrata overtop. Serve immediately.
For the cauliflower sauce version
In a large pot, sautee the garlic for a couple of minutes, until no longer raw. Add the cauliflower, broth, and milk, and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 7-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft. Puree the sauce all together, and add the parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. If your sauce is too thick, add some more milk or broth until it thins to your desired consistency.
While the sauce is cooking, sautee your mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of olive oil on high heat, until they're golden-brown. When done, remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble everything, toss the pasta into the sauce, and add about 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water to loosen everything. Stir in the mushrooms and parsley, taste once more and make any final salt/pepper adjustments, and serve immediately.
This recipe makes a LOT of pasta. Feel free to halve your sauce of choice, and freeze any extra pasta for later use. Other things that are great with these: wilted spinach, arugula salad, roasted chicken thighs, a fuck ton of capers, anchovies ... the list goes on and on!