Rigatoni is my favourite pasta shape. Its chunkiness appeals to me and I find that it holds a thick sauce better than many other pastas. It's particularly good when paired with a cream sauce such as this one. This recipe is almost as quick and simple as a pasta dish could be – sautéed chestnut or button mushrooms in a cream sauce with some spinach leaves thrown in at the end. And a generous grating of parmesan cheese, of course.
This time I've enhanced the recipe with some chanterelle powder to give a boost of savouriness. This is optional, and you'll still get a tasty result without it, but it's absolutely worth it if you can find time time to dehydrate and grind some mushrooms to a powder – ideally a wild variety such as chanterelles (girolles) or ceps, or if that's not possible then shop-bought chestnut or button mushrooms will suffice to produce a tasty powder.
- 180 g dried rigatoni pasta
- 300 g chestnut musrooms (or button)
- 1 tsp mushroom powder
- 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped or sliced
- 150 ml double cream
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 40 g parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 large handful baby spinach
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- table salt, for the pasta water
- extra virgin olive oil, for frying
Halve or quarter the mushrooms into roughly the same sized pieces and set aside. Place a wide, heavy-based pan over a high heat and once it's hot, add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot (in about 30 seconds or so) add the mushrooms and a two-finger-and-thumb pinch of sea salt. Fry for 5 minutes, stirring only a couple of times, until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Add the butter and stir the mushrooms until the butter has turned slightly brown and gives off a nutty aroma. Turn the heat to low and add the garlic. Fry gently for 2 minutes, then add most of mushroom powder (reserving some for garnishing at the end) and continue to fry gently for 2 - 3 minutes. Now add the cream and turn the heat to medium. Bring to the boil and simmer until you have a thick sauce consistency.
While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a generous three-finger-and-thumb pinch of table salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the rigatoni and cook until _al dente_ according to the packet's instructions (usually 10 or 11 minutes).
When the mushroom sauce is nice and thick, add the spinach and stir until wilted. Drain the rigatoni in a colander, reserving some of the starchy water. Add the rigatoni to the creamy sauce with a spoonful or two of the pasta water and most of the grated parmesan (leaving some for sprinkling on top at the end). Mix until you've got a nice smooth sauce, adding a splash more starchy water if it's too thick. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve with the remaining mushroom powder, grated parmesan and a sprinkle of cracked black pepper.