I have not eaten a mushroom since I was nine and my mom tricked me into eating one, telling me it was simply “a bean.” Standing in the kitchen near the stove where she was making dinner, chewing with an intesne curiosity, I was actually enjoying the damn thing (somewhat). Then, she revealed to me that “the bean” was actually a cremini mushroom at which point, I lept to the sink, spit it out and declared my sense of disgust and betrayal in the most dramatic way I could possibly fashion.
Were these NOT the same things that occasionally grew on the corners of our front lawn? Were these NOT the same things dad warned me away from because of their possibly poisonous nature?
Was my mother out to kill me?
Well no, in fact, they were NOT the same things as the possibly toxic (but probably not) varieties making homes out front the house. And I quickly understood that. But divorcing myself from a distatse, an almost irrational fear of the mushroom, has taken me decades.
I pick them off pizza. I fish them out of salads. And pack anything you damn well want into the caps, heat them up and drop them in front of me. I’ll suck on my sneaker instead.
And yet… I could not get this recipe out of my head. Maybe a mushroom on its own didn’t sound all that hot, but mushrooms with wine, pasta, cheese, and onions? This is something a spore-bearing fungus hater might be able to get behind.
Mom has often told me I was missing the boat on mushrooms. This patsa dish looked and sounded so rewarding that maybe, I thought to myself, just maybe, this would be the meal that could lead me to welcoming mushrooms into my kitchen on a regular basis.
And it was! Moms always know.
Mushroom Marsala with Artichoke Hearts From Smitten Kitchen
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of same for pasta water
- 1 cup Marsala wine (dry)
- 1 pound pasta of your choice
- 1/2 pound artichoke hearts
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 cup cream (doubling Smitten’s measurement)
- 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsely
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
If you’re not as unfamiliar with mushroom preparation as I am, you can skip this part. I had no idea how to prep them. Never run them under water, as they will just soak it right up and turn to mush. Various stops on the web produced two methods – a slightly damp cloth or paper towel, or simply brushing any dirt off with a pastry brush, which was the option I took.
Stemming is easy. Hold the cap in one hand and with the other yank the stem up and down a few times, then give it a slight twist. It will pop right off. Between these beauties and the onion, I got in some good chopping time. Always a highlight to an evening for me.
Once everthing is cut, start boiling your pasta water (add the 1 tablespoon of kosher salt). Heat your oil on medium in a heavy skillet. Smitten recommends the onions go in first and cook solo for one minute before you add the shrooms, but I missed that step and threw both in at the same time. Didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
Let the mixture cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, or until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have cooked down. The aroma at this point will be heavenly, but don’t invite the neighbors over yet because it gets even better once you add the wine!
Add in the Marsala and let it cook until almost all the wine has evaporated. Marsala is made with Sicilian grapes and fortified with brandy that converts the sugar into a higher alcohol content. This step took me about eight minutes.
Drop your pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender – about ten minutes. Drain and add into the mushroom-onion mixture along with the parmesan, the cream and the artichoke hearts. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with parsley and pepper (I chopped the parsley but forgot to throw it in). Makes 4-6 servings.