Creamy mushroom penne with a side of Whine

(I apologize in advance about the whinging!)

My husband is going to school in a town far enough away and studying a program intense enough that it is worth it for him to live in the same town as his college during the week, and come stay with me on the weekends. I am currently living back at my mother’s house, as it is cost-effective for me, I am available to give my mother a hand with the house (and I am doing a very poor job of that, I am ashamed to admit, as my mother and I bunt our hot-heads often enough that I just want to escape and find a nice cafe in which I can sit and write.  I need to work on my patience with my dear mum and start earning my keep), and my hometown has all the amenities that one would need. The town my husband is living and going to college in has one convenience store, a Pharmasave, and one eating establishment.  The chance of me finding work there is next to nil, and the chance of being employed somewhere in my hometown is at least marginally better than that.

Anyway, so I hate sharing a kitchen.  I am very, very anal this way.  I also can’t stand clutter and my mum’s kitchen and the rest of her house is cluttered with clutter, she rents rooms to students who are often messy and leave dishes piled up in the sink, and there are usually too many people in the kitchen at once.  It’s not conducive to me wanting to cook, so I end up making quick meals to get out of the way as fast as possible.  My mother has discovered she likely has an allergy or intolerance to wheat (not gluten, but wheat), so she can’t eat most of the quick meals I would want to make.  We’ve been experimenting with options and that has been fun, but lately she has been fasting (a Hindu religious fast, which doesn’t mean that she goes without food, but instead is limited in what she can eat- no meat [which she doesn’t eat anyway], no eggs [which she eats very, very rarely], no wheat [which she can’t have now anyway] or other grains, and no vegetables except potatoes and sweet potatoes [I don’t know why], but fruit, nuts, and dairy are okay).

So, the whole point is this: I am mostly cooking for myself these days, due to the lack of a husband during the week, and because my mother’s fast is so restrictive.  Cooking for one sucks ANYWAY, and is worse when you just don’t want to be in a cluttered, messy, crowded kitchen. Yesterday, I boiled a pot of chopped potatoes (skins on- I was too lazy to care, and I know the skins are good for me anyway), mashed them with milk, and then ate just mashed potatoes for dinner (which my mother could also eat, since it was just potato, milk, and salt). I was planning on making mushroom gravy to go with the potatoes (which my mother can’t eat), but I didn’t care enough to bother making it for just me.

Today I decided I ought to make an effort, as the bowl-of-mashed-potatoes-with-ketchup-for-dinner incident was an embarrassing display of my apathy and laziness. I made a delicious creamy- but not too creamy- mushroom sauce (the same mushrooms that were supposed to be gravy, but they evidently had a different destiny) to go with penne, and it really was good.  Next time I will make it with cashew cream, to up the protein content, which also makes the sauce vegan (see vegan option).  My mother couldn’t have this (she had lunch left-overs for dinner anyway), so I doubled the proportions I used to make the recipe serve two.

Herbed creamy mushroom pasta


about 3 cups sliced mushrooms
one chopped onion
2 tbsp oil and/or butter
1 cup milk
about 4-6 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp herbs (I used basil, marjoram, and thyme)
pepper and salt to taste
2 cups cooked pasta

To make the sauce, heat the butter/oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and mushrooms with a pinch of salt, and cook covered for about 20 minutes or more, until they become very soft and rich tasting. Don’t stir too often, but do keep an eye on them so they don’t brown too much.  Add the milk, cream cheese, and seasonings. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add the freshly cooked pasta, stir until thoroughly coated. Serve!

Vegan/higher protein option: omit the cheese and add a cup or so of cashew cream (blend about 1/3 cup of raw cashews with 1 cup of cold water, until you reach the consistency of cream. Mmmm, cashew cream) where the milk is called for.  Cook until thickened a little (through evaporation of water…I don’t believe cashews have any self-thickening properties, although you could use cornstarch to help things along if necessary).  Mmmm, herbed mushroom and cashew cream pasta sauce.

I hope you agree the recipe was worth you reading all that whining to get to it.  For the record: my mother is very sweet and loving, and the students she rents to- my housemates- are very decent, fun, and considerate people.

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