4 Cheese Baked Pasta with Mushrooms

One of the Saturday morning rituals at our house is to watch the mélange of cooking shows on our local public television channel, KQED.  Many times we are inspired to take dishes that are prepared on the show, dissect the ingredients and give a critical personal analysis of the cooking techniques used in their preparation… and ultimately create something deliciously new!  This past Saturday proved to be one of those days.

We watched one of our favorite chefs prepare a Mediterranean-inspired pasta dish rich in cheeses and resplendent with a variety of mushrooms, briefly baked in au gratin dishes in a hot oven.  Since we both love great cheeses and the wonderful earthiness of mushrooms our attentions became focused.  At the end of the segment we looked at each other and said simultaneously and emphatically, “What?  No garlic…?”

This dish, 4-Cheese Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, is the exquisite, velvety and flavorful result… with crunch!  Admittedly, this decadent marriage of ingredients is sinfully rich in calories… but what a spectacular way in which to occasionally indulge!  Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, tangy goat cheese, creamy ricotta and nutty fontina add the smooth complexity of their flavors to beautifully sautéed golden chanterelle, shiitake and porcini mushrooms.  Seasoned with fresh thyme and minced garlic, the mushrooms are folded together with fresh cream, al dente orecchiette and… the surprise ingredient… Swiss chard.  Topped with crunchy savory bread crumbs this dish is a must for those who love pasta… for those who love cheese… and for those who love mushrooms!

4-Cheese Baked Pasta with Mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place in a small glass bowl:

  • 1-1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms

Cover with water and place in the microwave for 2 minutes on high.  Set the bowl to the side and allow the porcinis to rehydrate, approximately 20 – 30 minutes.  Place in a large mixing bowl:

  • 1 8-oz log goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, packed
  • 1 C shredded fontina
  • 1 C ricotta

Clean and trim the stems, then cut into 1/4-inch slices:

  • a 10 – 12-oz combination of golden chanterelles and shiitake mushroom caps

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil, then salt the water.  Meanwhile, as the pasta water heats, melt in a heavy 12-inch skillet over moderate heat:

  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted sweet cream butter

When the butter has melted and begins to bubble add:

  • the sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper

 

Toss to coat  then add:

  • 6 whole garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 bunch thyme leaves, stems stripped and discarded
  • the reconstituted porcinis, drained and coarsely  chopped

Chef’s Note:  Reserve and refrigerate the porcini liquid for future use.  Don’t throw it away… it is filled with flavor!  Add to sauces and gravies for an extra dimension of flavor.

Sauté until the mushrooms are beginning to brown.  Remove from the heat and set to the side.

 

When the salted pasta water has returned to a boil add:

  • 1  1-lb box orecchiette

Parboil for 8 minutes, then drain.

Chef’s Note:  The manufacturer’s recommended cooking time for this pasta is 11 minutes.  The pasta however, should be al dente… and it will finish cooking during the time it is in the oven.

Finely julienne:

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, stems removed

Heat in a medium pan on the stove or in a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave til hot:

  • 3 C heavy cream

To the large mixing bowl containing the cheeses, add:

  • the hot parboiled pasta
  • the Swiss chard
  • the hot cream

 

 Mix well and season to taste with:

  • salt and white pepper

Transfer to a baking dish.  Process into crumbs:

  • sourdough bread or baguette to total 2 – 2-1/2 cups

Chef’s Note: For this recipe fresh bread works fine!   Cut sliced bread into pieces and pulse in the food processor until desired crumb size is achieved.

Drizzle with:

  •  2 T unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

Top with:

  • 1/3 C chopped parsley
  • 3/4 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Mix well to combine all ingredients.  Sprinkle over pasta casserole:

 

Bake in preheated 400° oven for 35 minutes.  The top will be golden brown… and the pasta bubbly:

 

 

Serve piping hot with a crisp salad… greens with arugula are a marvelous accompaniment.  The pepperiness of the arugula is superb with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the suave velvety tones of the cheeses… Bon Appetit!

 

©2011 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved

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Tags:

Categories: Casseroles, Garlic, Mushrooms, Pasta

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!

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2 Comments on “4 Cheese Baked Pasta with Mushrooms”

  1. Mary
    January 31, 2011 at 6:50 PM #

    Steve, this looks fabulous! Miss you at the Y but your posts keep me connected and thinking of you.

  2. November 9, 2011 at 2:08 PM #

    One should be fortunate enough to try this delectable food of the gods first hand. Our Salem friends heard our request for the very best restaurant in the San Francisco area and took us to the kitchen of a couple of the most fabulous chefs in the entire world. They somehow had been given the gift of this recipe and prepared it for us and the couple that we had gone to San Francisco with. OMG, it was literally to die for. Our gratitude is endless. Thank you so much Steven and Dayton. T&C, aka “lostinlagrande”

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