Creamy mushroom pasta

Pasta with tomato sauce was a real staple of my childhood, so much so that it was affectionately known simply as p&ts.  My poor parents did try varying their traditional recipe of olive oil, garlic, fresh tomato and bay leaf, but my sister and I would always protests that we wanted the “proper” p&ts.  As we’ve grown up we’ve become a bit more open to change but the combination of pasta with some kind of tomato sauce is still very comforting and always a winning one for me.  Both my sister and I still demand p&ts most times that we visit my parents.  This recipe is not the “true” p&ts that I grew up with: the tomato sauce is based on passata rather than fresh tomato as a shortcut (and it is also usable the whole year, whereas fresh tomatoes often don’t taste as good in the winter), and has the addition of mushrooms and onion, spices and gooey melted cheese.  I have also upped the vegetable content by sneakily hiding some spiralised courgette amongst the pasta – particularly useful for children (or adults) who aren’t as keen about eating up their veg.  If local fresh tomatoes are in season please feel free to add them to the passata, or use them to replace it, in the sauce.

Creamy mushroom pasta

Cooking time: 15 minutes preparation, 10-15 minutes cooking on the night

Dietary info: vegan, can be made gluten free by replacing the pasta with gluten free pasta or courgetti

Serves: 2 (easily doubled)

  • 250g fresh tagliatelle or spaghetti (or 100-150g dried pasta) – I prefer the taste of whole-wheat varieties but just choose your favourite
  • 1 courgette, spiralised (optional)
  • 400g mushrooms, sliced (e.g. closed cup, chestnut or mini portobello)
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 80g vegan cream cheese, or if you don’t want to make a dairy-free version you can use normal cream cheese or mozzarella for a more gooey texture (which is really nice)

Tomato sauce:

  • 300ml passata
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  1. Combine all the tomato sauce ingredients and bring to the boil in a saucepan then turn down the temperature and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Alternatively, heat in a covered microwave safe bowl, for 3-4 minutes in the microwave at full power.
  2. Put the sliced mushrooms and onions in a saucepan with the paprika, garlic powder, cinnamon and celery salt and enough water to come about half way up the vegetables.  Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions and mushrooms are soft, stirring occasionally to make sure that they don’t stick and adding an extra splash of water if they are looking too dry.
  3. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente.  Drain, rinse with water to stop them getting too sticky and set aside.
  4. Put the spiralised courgette in a saucepan with a splash of water to stop it sticking.  Cover and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring half way, until they are just starting to soften but still have a bit of a crunch.
  5. Stir the pasta, half of the mushroom and onion mixture and 6 tbsp of the tomato sauce into the courgetti.
  6. Cover the pasta/courgetti mixture in slices or blobs of the cheese, cover the pan and heat for 1-2 minutes so that all the ingredients are warmed through and the cheese is melting.
  7. Stir the melted cheese in and serve with the remaining mushroom and onion mixture and tomato sauce to drizzle over.  This is also nice with a crispy side salad dressed with lemon juice and a drizzle of the tomato sauce.

A few tips to prep ahead:

  • Make the mushroom and onion mixture and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Make the tomato sauce and keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
  • You can spiralise the courgette the day before and keep in a sealed box or bag in the fridge.  If you prepare it further ahead it is in danger of drying out or going slimy.
  • Then all you need to do on the night is cook the pasta and courgetti and combine (steps 3 to 7 above).
  • If using tagliatelle or spaghetti (as described above) I prefer to cook this fresh on the night, but if you are doing a bake (described below) the whole thing can be prepared a day or two ahead and just baked to heat through on the night.

Some tasty little twists…

Pasta dishes tend to be very easy to adapt into a myriad of different variations:

  •  To make a pasta bake:
    • Replace the tagliatelle/spaghetti with pasta shapes.
    • Finely slice or grate the courgette rather than spiralise.
    • Mix together the pasta, courgette, half the mushrooms and onion and 6 tbsp tomato sauce in an ovenproof dish.
    • Cover with the cheese and bake at 160C fan for 15-20 minutes until it is hot all the way through and the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown on the top.
  • For a more substantial supper, replace the spiralised courgette with more pasta, or for a lighter dish, replace the pasta with 1-2 more spiralised courgettes (depending on the courgette size).
  • Other vegan variations for pasta dishes include:
    • Sprinkle the pasta with 1-2 tbsp of pine nuts and/or mixed seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds, sunflower seeds)
    • Replace the mushrooms with 2 sliced peppers, any colour.
    • Replace the passata with 6 fresh, finely chopped tomatoes if they are in season, or make it with 150ml passata and 3 tomatoes.  If using fresh tomatoes, add a splash of water and cook, covered until they are soft and have broken down into a sauce.  Mash with a stirring spoon to make a smoother sauce or blend in a food processor for a super smooth sauce.
  • To make a non-vegetarian version, dry fry 4 rashers of bacon in a non-stick saucepan, cut off the rinds (though if you like rinds feel free to leave them on) and cut into small pieces.  Mix into the pasta or sprinkle on top.
  • Use the tomato sauce, mushroom and onion mixture and cheese to top a pizza base, pitta bread or tortilla and bake until the cheese is melted and starting to brown for a vegetable packed pizza.

 

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