I want to make a resolution to get more creative with my pasta over the next year. I actually eat pasta surprisingly little for a guy who loves to eat, say maybe once every 3-4 weeks, and even then I’m not overly creative with it. Pasta has become a rather lazy choice for me when, after a 10-hour work day, I don’t really want to cook anything. Bolognaise features all too often, as does pesto, and sometimes I just take a jar of tomato sauce from the cupboard if I’m feeling particularly nonchalant. It’s always the same pasta shapes too: spinach Trottole, with spaghetti sometimes for variety.
So here begin my efforts to break out of my self-imposed pasta prison with an impulse purchase of Linguine from the supermarket shelf, together with some fresh oyster mushrooms and a subtle yet elegant pairing with leek. This is not a dish of intense flavours, rather of delicate infusion. The cream is rich, of course, but vegan cream is rather less so that its dairy counterpart and so does not overpower the other, more gentle tastes.
I use vine-ripened tomatoes, bought at my local store, and I hope you will too. Salad tomatoes bought at the supermarket taste of nothing and will not enhance your meal in any way. They are hard, never ripe and will grow mould long before they develop and real flavour.
Oyster mushrooms tear easily by hand into attractive strips, but you can slice them if you’d prefer. Do remember to wash the leek after you have sliced it. Grit gets in all the layers, especially when you get closer to the leaves, so spend a moment or two separating them and running them under water.
Linguine with Oyster Mushrooms and Leeks
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: about 25 minutes
250g dried linguine
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek, sliced and washed
1 yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and thinly sliced
200g fresh oyster mushrooms, torn into strips with your hands
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
2 tsp garlic puree
1 vegan stock cube
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
500ml vegan cream
A good handful of fresh, chopped parsley
First bring a pan of water to the boil for the pasta.
While it is coming to temperature, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok and cook the leek and peppers for 8-10 minutes, until they are soft and starting to brown. Add the torn mushrooms and cook for another 8-10 minutes, stirring often. If the water has come to the boil by this point, then add the linguine to the pan and simmer for 9 minutes or so, depending on packet instructions. Remember to stir the pasta at the beginning, when it had just softened in the water. This prevents the strands from sticking together. Drain the linguine when ready and keep warm.
Add the tomato wedges to the mushroom pan and cook for 3 more minutes, then add the garlic puree and give it a minute or so more.
Stir in the stock cube, nutritional yeast and nutmeg, then slowly pour in the cream, mixing as you do so. Allow the cream to come to a simmer, then stir in the parsley and cook for another 2 minutes.
Mix in the strained linguine and serve immediately with some vegan parmesan.