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Penne di Risotto

This is a recipe from the CIA.  No, not that CIA, I'm referring to the Cooking Institute of America, one of this country's most prestigious cooking schools.  They have a cooking show that runs on PBS, or at least it used to, which I've always considered one of the very best around.  This is from the second cookbook from that TV series.

It's a wonderful dish that uses the technique generally applied to the cooking of Risotto, hence the recipe title.  This is a technique whereby the rice, or in this case the pasta, is allowed to absorb small amounts of liquid before adding more, then more, then more again until it is cooked to the desired firmness.  The sautéing of the penne also imparts a wonderfully nutty flavor adding a whole new dimension to the traditional pasta flavor.  I have modified it only slightly by using less oil and increasing the amount of certain ingredients but the spirit of the original recipe remains.  Also I found that I need less broth than called for in the original.  For a healthier recipe with much less fat I substitute fat free evaporated milk for the cream.

3 tablespoons    olive oil
1 pound    penne pasta
½ cup    dry sherry
6 cups    chicken broth
3 cups    sliced mushrooms
2 cups    heavy cream
4 teaspoons    chopped fresh sage (or 2 teaspoons rubbed sage)
4 leaves    fresh sage for garnish (optional)
½ cup    toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup    grated Parmesan
1 medium    tomato, finely diced

Heat the broth to a simmer in a saucepan and keep warm.  

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the cooked pasta over medium fire.  Add 2 tablespoons of the oil swirling to coat the pan.  Add the pasta and sauté until golden brown stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  Add the sherry and simmer until the sherry has almost evaporated.

Add one third of the broth and simmer until the pasta absorbs the broth, about 5 minutes (depending on the power of your burner this could take longer).  Repeat until all the broth is absorbed or until the pasta is al dente.  Drain any remaining broth and set pasta aside.

Add remaining oil to the skillet and sauté the mushrooms until tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the pasta, cream and salt and pepper to taste.  When the cream comes to a boil add the sage and pine nuts.  Simmer until the cream has reduced slightly and thickens.  A corn starch slurry or butter can be used for additional thickening if this is desired.

Add the cheese and toss to blend.  Serve in a warmed pasta bowl garnished with the tomato and sage leaves.



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