Sometimes you want (well, okay – LOTS of times) something wonderful for dinner, but you don’t have either the energy, time or inclination to spend hours working on a great meal. There are many ways to tackle this problem and from time to time, I will, but here is one delicious and elegant way. I’m not promising that it is the least expensive dinner you could produce, but it still beats the price of a pizza. I’m just sayin’.
I always try to keep on hand the fixings for some kind of pasta and this summer I also am growing some wonderful herbs on my windowsill (and occasionally taken out to my terrace for fresh air). I happen to really like truffles, but there is no way (none, zero, zilch) that I am going to put down the money for actual truffles. I have learned that doesn’t mean that I can’t still enjoy them at some level. I’m sure that true truffle aficionados will tell you how there is nothing like shaving a real truffle over your pasta and I will gladly concede that likely they are correct. And if someone else is paying, call me up and I will happily come on over to eat it. But for the rest of us, well there are some pretty good (and much less expensive) ways to get your truffle fix.
I look for truffle butter on sale and you would be amazed at how far 3.5 oz. of truffle butter goes. (It will also last quite awhile in the fridge if unopened.) I can get it in my local Whole Foods for $9.99 (not on sale) or through Peapod for $5.99 any time. Same brand. I also have Frances to thank for a bottle of white truffle oil, which you can also pick up in many grocery stores or you can order it online along with that Meyer lemon EVOO. I pick up LOTS of mushrooms (different varieties if I can get them) at the grocery store or farmer’s market, along with two big shallots or some onion if shallots aren’t available. I sauté the mushrooms and shallots in the truffle butter with some EVOO until still meaty, but tender and the shallots are translucent. Towards the end of the cooking, I add some finely chopped garlic. I like a lot so I add about 2 teaspoons. If I happen to have some white wine open, I splash some in too. Then I add Kosher salt and lots of cracked pepper to taste and a good handful of fresh herbs. I happen to have lemon thyme and parsley and basil so in they went. It’s really to taste. Remember that the taste of fresh herbs is not as concentrated as that of dry, so don’t get scared off – use plenty. Just as the pasta (use any kind you like but one that has some substance is best) is finishing cooking, take 1/3 cup of that wonderfully starchy pasta water and add it to the sauce. If you are feeling really decadent, throw in some heavy cream at the end.
I top the pasta and sauce with this wonderful Pecorino with Truffles that you can find at Whole Foods or other gourmet stores. A little goes a long way. It’s definitely worth the splurge, in my opinion. If you don’t have that then shave or grate some good Reggiano Parmesan or a good Pecorino on top. Sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsley (flat-leaf, of course) or basil and mangia! Some crusty bread, a bright green salad, a crisp white wine that can stand up to the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffles and you have a meal fit for guests or that special someone. And it took less time to make than it took me to write about it.