Saturday, October 28, 2006

let there be light!

when our power returned, the first thing i wanted to do was eat a meal that i cooked myself, not including peanut butter and jelly. we invited some friends over for dinner and our hero's hometown team's football game. both of the friends were alumni of said hometown school, so it was quite lively.

i love cooking with mushrooms, and had wanted to try this tempting recipe from Sally Schneider's A New Way to Cook for quite a while. the recipe made a lot of food, and the leftovers were even better the next day.

Baked Penne with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Ricotta Salata
From A New Way to Cook

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup dried wild mushrooms, preferably porcini or morel
2 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves
1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms (any kinds you like)
1 1/2 t. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 t. dried thyme
1 28-oz can italian-style peeled tomatoes, chopped with juice
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 t. olive oil or unsalted butter
1 lb. tubular pasta (like penne)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
5 oz. ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced or shaved

To make the ragu, pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and tomatoes in a bowl, cover, and soak until softened, at least 15 minutes.

Wipe the fresh mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Trim off any tough stems and discard. Cut larger shrooms into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Leave smaller mushrooms whole.

In a medium saucepan, combine oil, onions, and garlic. Cover and cook over medium heat until onions begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Uncover and saute until they are just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

Remove dried mushrooms and tomatoes from soaking liquid (reserve liquid) and rinse under cool water. Coarsely chop.

Spoon about 3/4 cup of the soaking liquid into the saucepan with the onions, leaving behind any grit. Add the wine and thyme and boil 1 minute. Add the fresh shrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and juice, chopped dried shrooms and tomato, sugar, and salt. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until shrooms are tender and ragu is thick, about 15 minutes. Pepper generously.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 casserole with the oil and set aside. Cook pasta until slightly underdone (it will cook in the oven). Drain the pasta and plunge it into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again. Add ragu to the pasta and toss until thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and pepper to taste and toss again. Pour half the mixture into the casserole. Arrange the ricotta salata shavings over the top, cover with the remaining pasta, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake the pasta until heated through and the top is lightly brown and crisp, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

the recipe says this can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated or frozen up to 2 months. it really has a wonderful, earthy flavor and could easily feed a hungry crowd.

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