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Pick Your Pasta: Macaroni with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Mushroom-Leek Sauce

Sunday dinner in my family always meant “macaroni”, typically served with a gravy made from meatballs, sausage and bracciole. For as long as I can remember, we always called it “macaroni” not matter what size, shape or form it came in. With the advent of food TV and the evolution of gourmet dining, chefs were referring to my “macaroni” as pasta. So, what’s in a name? I don’t know, but maybe “pasta” sounds more sophisticated than “macaroni’. I checked Wikipedia and found out that “macaroni” is a cut, tubular-shaped pasta. Different in form from noodles and other flat pastas, “macaroni” is made from the same ingredients and should taste the same. So what’s the difference? For me, it comes down to the sauce, tradition and some pragmatism. I like to use certain types of pasta because, by design, their shape allows the sauce to get caught up in their nooks and crannies. For a creamy vodka sauce, something like penne or rigatoni works well. (I like this recipe from the Humane Society.) Our family tradition for Christmas Eve was a pasta dish called fra’ diavlo (spaghetti with a red sauce made with shellfish.) I pay homage to that tradition with my Linguini with Shitake Mushroom Sauce and will always use a flat pasta for this dish.  Flat pasta like fettucine or linguine is a good choice for a thick marinara or an Alfredo-type sauce since the sauce is able to coat the long strands of pasta. However, a pasta dish that calls for vegetables like leeks, mushrooms, zucchini or eggplant is better suited for a cut pasta because it’s easier to get the different ingredients onto your fork and neatly into your mouth. A recipe like Macaroni & Peas definitely needs a small, cut pasta (and a spoon). And yet, it all comes down to personal taste; you just might prefer the appearance or mouth-feel of one type of pasta over the other.  A few notes about this recipe. Depending on how saucy you want to like your pasta this recipe will cover from 8 to 12 ounces of pasta. For an alcohol-free version, replace the wine with more broth. If you don’t have leeks, you can substitute yellow onions. Call it what you like, this is one delicious and nutritious dish. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Macaroni Creamy Cashew Mushroom Leek Sauce

3 to 4 servings

  • ½ cup cashew cream (see recipe below)
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used white and cremini, but you could use exotic mushrooms as well)
  • 3 leeks
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ tsp Better Than Boullion No Chicken Base dissolved in 1 cup water
  •  8 – 12 oz. pasta, cooked according to directions

Thinly slice leeks, rinse thoroughly and drain. Saute in deep skillet or saucepan until soft, adding water a tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking. Remove and place in bowl. Add mushrooms to pan and sauté until lightly browned, adding a little bit of water or oil to prevent sticking. Return leeks to pan, add thyme and sauté 2 minutes longer. Add wine and continue cooking until evaporated. Add broth and cashew cream and simmer until thickened. Toss with pasta.

Cashew Cream

Makes about 2¼ cups

  1. Rinse 2 cups whole raw cashews (not pieces, which are often dry) very well under cold water.
  2. Put the cashews in a bowl and add cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Drain the cashews and rinse under cold water.
  4. Place nuts in a blender with enough fresh cold water to barely cover them. Blend on high for several minutes until very smooth. (If you’re not using a professional high-speed blender such as a Vita-Mix or Blend Tec, which creates an ultra-smooth cream, strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve.)


02 Feb 2016

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