Nigella Pasta

For so many years having pasta for dinner meant penne with a tomato based sauce. This is the kind of pasta I grew up eating and what I made for myself and my husband when we first moved in together. Don’t get me wrong, I still make this kind of pasta all the time. I even spruce it up a little with a sprinkling of basil, pinenuts and even a bit of feta cheese but that’s not what Nigella Pasta is all about.

One of the things I do (and I’m sure it’s not just me) as soon as I buy a new cookbook is read (at least skim) through the thing from cover to cover looking at things I might like to make. When I do this, I’m also applying the vegetarian filter. That’s not to say that the meat dishes don’t get attention, they eventually do! Finding something vegetarian that looks suitable as a main dish for dinner, isn’t too complicated and looks tasty isn’t always so easy. When I do find something that I think will work it’s a case of “ding ding ding! Let’s get cooking!” That’s what happened with Nigella Pasta. Five years have gone by and this pasta dish still makes a regular appearance at our dinner table. The mushrooms, lemon, thyme, garlic and parmesan give this dish plenty of flavor without the need for any cream although I guess the olive oil and salt help out in that department too!

I call this “Nigella Pasta” because the original recipe it’s based on is too long to remember! It is literally called “Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms” and was created by Nigella Lawson, featured in one of her great books – Nigella Express. My Nigella obsession was in my days of pre Ina Garten discovery. I’m still a big fan of Nigella but I have to admit, Ina is my number one spot these days. But back to the book. I really like it over some of the other Nigella books I own. The recipes are straightforward and the dishes are meant to be super quick to prepare. I honestly don’t think this dish is one of them though. Don’t get me wrong, this dish doesn’t take hours and hours and you can still get it done for a weeknight dinner if you’re quick and organized. But I’m a pretty slow chopper and when a recipe calls for thinly sliced cremini mushrooms…Well, it just takes a while!

Over the years I’ve made some tweaks to the recipe to (in Ina’s words) turn up the volume. It was lovely as is but I just felt like it needed more greens (insert asparagus), more mushrooms and more cheese to make it a really satisfying and nourishing one bowl dinner. I’ve made this for friends and family and it always goes down well.

Recipe – Nigella Pasta (based on Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms by Nigella Lawson)

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and finely sliced
8 ounces asparagus
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 pound linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper

Put sliced mushrooms into a large bowl with the oil, salt, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, and thyme leaves.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta and a smaller pot to boil for asparagus.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Cook the asparagus for 2 minutes in smaller pot of boiled water.
Drain asparagus and transfer to a bowl of icy cold water for 5 minutes.
Add asparagus to large bowl with mushrooms and other ingredients.
Once pasta has finished cooking turn off heat and add 1 ladle full of pasta water to the bowl of mushrooms.
Drain pasta and quickly add into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.
Toss everything together well, then add the cheese and pepper before tossing again.

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