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A&E >  Food

Creamy mushroom pasta with hazelnuts is a 20-minute meal built for speed and elegance

Creamy forest pasta with mushrooms is intended to be prepared in 10 minutes.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
Creamy forest pasta with mushrooms is intended to be prepared in 10 minutes. (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Ann Maloney Washington Post

The promise of “In Minutes,” from cookbook author Clodagh McKenna, is that there’s a recipe for you within the pages – even if you have just 10 minutes to spend in the kitchen. The full title includes this sentence: “10, 20, 30 Minutes – How much time do you have to cook tonight?”

That’s a question I ask myself almost every weeknight evening. The 10-minute chapter leans heavily on salads, with topped flatbreads, quesadillas, eggs and pasta dishes like this creamy forest pasta. The “forest” comes from the mix of “wild” or “woodland” mushrooms she recommends, while suggesting chestnut, oyster, portobello and shiitakes for non-foragers.

The dish calls for fresh pasta – dry may add a few minutes – sauteed mushrooms, garlic and fresh rosemary sauced up with a bit of white wine and creme fraiche. The whole thing is topped with chopped toasted hazelnuts. And it’s delicious. Did I make it in 10 minutes? Not quite, but I was sprinkling those nuts on top in less than 20.

For that, I give McKenna a gold star. She takes shortcuts using pantry items and precooked ingredients. I tried a couple of those, including the taco salad, made with canned black beans and corn, and the stir-fried rice with pancetta and peas, which relies on leftover or precooked rice for some of that speediness. I always seem to have leftover rice. Do you?

What’s appealing about the 80 recipes the Irish cook includes is that while the ingredient lists are short and the techniques are basic, the recipes, for the most part, aren’t the same old, same old, and they include meaty dishes as well as vegetarian and vegan options. I’m eager to try her creamy smoked trout, pea and mint spaghetti and her Moroccan spiced lamb.

“There’s a recipe in here for whatever kind of day you might be having,” McKenna, who appears on ITV’s “This Morning,” writes in the cookbook’s introduction. That’s the kind of cookbook worth slipping on my kitchen shelf.

Creamy Forest Pasta With Mushrooms

Fine salt

1 pound fresh tagliatelle, or fresh or dried linguine or fettuccine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¾ pound mixed wild mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for serving

⅓ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc

8 ounces crème fraîche (see notes below)

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup peeled, roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (about 2½ ounces), for serving (see notes below)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil on the stove. Add the fresh tagliatelle and cook, stirring occasionally, according to package directions, 3 to 5 minutes (this will take longer if using dried pasta). Drain, reserving about a ½ cup of the pasta water, and return the cooked pasta to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat, heat the oil and butter until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms and fry, stirring occasionally, until they dry out and turn a bit golden, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed.

Add the garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Fold in the creme fraiche until it melts and makes a smooth sauce. Taste, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Pour the mushroom sauce and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water over the cooked tagliatelle and stir well to combine, adding more pasta water as needed.

Portion the pasta into bowls and top with the chopped hazelnuts and rosemary.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Where to buy: Packages of mixed mushrooms can be found at well-stocked supermarkets. Alternatively, you can make your own with a mix of chestnut, oyster, portobello and shiitake mushrooms.

Notes: This dish is best with creme fraiche, but you can substitute an equal amount of mascarpone or, in a pinch, Greek yogurt. The sauce will be thinner if made with yogurt.

If possible, buy peeled, roasted hazelnuts. If they are not available, toast and cool the nuts. Then, place them on one side of a clean kitchen towel, fold the towel over the nuts and vigorously rub to remove any loose skins. Some skins will remain.

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