A vegetarian kale mushroom pasta recipe topped with a soft-boiled egg and grated pecorino cheese, plus the secret to cooking perfect al dente pasta.
Last weekend, Pat and I had the chance to take a seminar that included an intimate tour of San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building farmers’ market and a trip to Baia pasta factory in Oakland. Overall, I think we do a good job about being thoughtful about our shopping choices, but this experience was still a great reminder that it’s not just fruits and vegetables that matter. Throughout the day, we learned about what really goes into that box of pasta that you pull from the shelf.
One thing I hadn’t put much thought into is the flour that goes into pasta. Great pasta needs great flour. Things like freshness, how the flour is milled, and the quality of the grains really matter.
We try to think about the environmental impact of our food choices, and I was shocked to learn that most Italian pasta uses grain grown in the United States that is shipped to Italy, and then shipped back to the United States to consumers. That is a huge carbon footprint. If you think about how expensive the shipping process is alone, then consider how much money actually goes in to sourcing ingredients for a box of pasta that only costs a few dollars.
Spoiler alert: Not a lot. It really made me appreciate the choice of buying dry pasta that is made in the United States and costs a few dollars more a box.
The leader of our group also shared a few secrets to cooking perfect pasta:
- Don’t be stingy about the salt in your water. Generously salting the water won’t make your pasta taste salty, as dry pasta picks up just the right amount of salt when it is cooked.
- Pick a large pot. It’s important to have at least three inches of water above the pasta.
- The sauce to pasta ratio is important! A good pasta dish should have about 1:3 sauce to pasta ratio.
- Pasta is al dente when the noodle is sliced in half lengthwise and there is just a small line of white in the middle.
A few notes about cooking with mushrooms:
- How to Know When Mushrooms are Spoiled: Mushrooms will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. It’s easy to tell when mushrooms go bad. If they start to get slimy, that’s when you know it’s time to throw them out. Spoiled mushrooms have a strong smell. If you smell ammonia, they are probably bad.
- Which Mushrooms to Use for Pasta: Try a mix! Crimini work great in pasta and they are typically inexpensive and available in bulk at the grocery store. Round things out by buying fancy wild mushrooms like chanterelle, maitake (also known as hen of the woods) or oyster. All three of these varieties have a great taste and texture and are perfect for pasta. ‘Regular mushrooms’, aka the white button mushrooms that are the most common at the grocery store, will also work in a pinch.
- Mushrooms and Dietary Restrictions: Mushrooms will fit into almost any diet. They are vegan, low-calorie, low carb, gluten-free, and paleo.
- Health Benefits of Mushrooms: It’s all about balance! Even though this pasta has some indulgent ingredients, like butter and eggs, the kale and mushrooms balance things out. Mushrooms are super healthy and packed with nutrients. Just like us, they produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. No other fruit or vegetable can claim that! Studies have also shown that mushroom boost immune function. Mushrooms are also high in anti-oxidants and B-vitamins. I’m tricky like that, sneaking superfoods into your pasta.
Kale Mushroom Pasta with Soft Boiled Egg
A vegetarian kale mushroom pasta recipe topped with a soft boiled egg and grated pecorino cheese. It’s the perfect balance between healthy and indulgent.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
1 bunch lacinto kale
13 ounces assorted mushrooms (suggestions: crimini, chanterelle, maitake (also known as hen of the woods) or oyster)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
6 soft boiled eggs
5 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cloves garlic (1 teaspoon), minced
16 ounces dry pasta
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
- Prep the ingredients: The most important thing for this recipe is to prep everything and have it organized so it will all be done cooking at the same time. Start by filling a large pot with water (for the pasta) and a medium-sized pot with water (for the eggs). Wash, de-stem and chop the kale and set aside. Slice the mushrooms. Pick the thyme leaves off their stems.
- Place the eggs in the medium-sized pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil for exactly 6 minutes and drain. Run with cold water to stop the cooking.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 6 to 8 minutes, until they are soft and dark. Finally, add the remaining butter to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until butter browns, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Bring large pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving pasta water.
- Add the kale and thyme to the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale wilts, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook 1 to 2 more minutes, until pasta is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Gently peel the soft boiled eggs.
- Plate the pasta, garnish with pecorino romano cheese and top with a soft boiled egg.
See post text for tips on cooking perfect dry pasta and more details about cooking with mushrooms.