Mushroom and Spinach Pasta

At the beginning of the semester I purchased a beautiful package of assorted dried mushrooms from Trader Joe’s, but I haven’t really known what to do with it. I have never reconstituted mushrooms before, and although reconstituting dried goods is quite simple, I wasn’t sure how they would compare to their fresh counterpart. According to Mark Bittman (my go to for all of my kitchen basics), reconstituted mushrooms are nearly the same as fresh, and still have great flavor. Additionally, when you reconstitute the mushrooms you are left with a wonderfully rich broth that can be added to soups or stews (hmm I predict a risotto in the near future…).

I am a huge mushroom fan, but sometimes, when I think too much about what mushrooms actually are, I do a bit of a double take. Science can do a bit of a disservice to food when it explains metabolic processes and other systems in living organisms – ain’t it great to be a biology major? -. It’s just a little TMI for a foodie. Besides the obvious fact that  mushrooms are fungus, the fact that it lives off of decaying matter starts to make me question who ever thought to eat them in the first place – the same can be said for blue cheese of course -. Yet, whoever they are, I deem them genius because mushrooms add such unique flavors to a variety of dishes, and I would be quite sad if they weren’t around! I hope that I didn’t get you thinking too much about the true life of mushrooms, and if I did, well…my apologies, I can’t help but question where our food comes from sometimes and I would encourage you to do the same!

Mushroom and Spinach Pasta – serves 2

1/2 pound whole wheat penne pasta; 1 cup washed spinach leaves; 25 g reconstituted mushrooms; 1 teaspoon crushed garlic; 3 tablespoons olive oil; chili flakes and pepper to taste.

Begin by rinsing the dried mushrooms in lukewarm water to get rid of noticeable dirt. Then, place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes, or until soft.

They're aliiiive!

**Note, using shitake mushrooms will take significantly longer, and you will have to replace the hot water as well as cut off additional parts of the mushrooms that did not soften. Once softened, drain and save broth for another dish.

Liquid Gold!

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium sized pan over medium heat. Roughly chop mushrooms and add to pan. Allow to cook for several minutes until lightly browned. Meanwhile, boil salted water and cook pasta according to directions.

 Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add chili flakes and pepper.

Once pasta is done, drain and save some of the cooking water. Mix pasta with mushrooms and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently stir in spinach. Continue to stir and add additional pasta water if too dry. Spinach will begin to wilt, but maintain most of its shape.

Top with a little parmesan and divide between two bowls.