This, friends, is a post you need to pay attention to. I am about to do you all a massive favor. It will involve yelling at you, but I yell because I care. STOP COOKING YOUR PASTA IN PLAIN, BORING WATER AND STOP EATING PLAIN, BORING PASTA. THERE IS NO REASONABLE EXCUSE FOR THIS BEHAVIOR. JUST STOP IT. Let's face it: pasta is dull. Unless you find authentic, homemade stuff, pasta is bland as can be, and even finding homemade doesn't guarantee it's going to be flavorful. Plus, half the time the sauce is too thin and just rolls off the noodles, and what you end up with is a forgettable, disappointing meal, which is why people end up just dumping mass amounts of cheese on top, or even worse, that "Parmesan" dust that doesn't even need to be refrigerated. Never again! Now your pasta can actually taste like things! There is one simple rule for pasta to be rich and flavorful: cook it like risotto. Start off like you're making the sauce (saute some onion/shallots/garlic/tomatoes/whathaveyou), then add oil and dry noodles, then broth in half-cup increments til the pasta has absorbed it all, then finish it like you're finishing the sauce (with "cream," a thickener, etc) and that's all. Since the pasta is cooking with the sauce ingredients and stock rather than water, it's infused with all that flavor. Delish. Here's one I messed around with to bring to my holiday potluck party on Friday. It's lovely as is, but next time I may also finish it with a bechemel, just to give it even more lushness.
Mushroom Leek Pastotto
Earth Balance butter and olive oil for sauteing 1/2 lb pasta (gemelli is a classic, but I quite like to use orecchiette or campanelle) 2 cups sliced mushrooms 1/2 to 1 cup leeks, thinly sliced 1 shallot, minced 1 tbsp minced garlic (I use jarred, minced garlic because I like how much mellower it is than fresh) 1/2 cup white wine 2.5-3 cups vegetable stock (I never use tomato-based stocks since mostly they make things taste like tomato paste, and here it's especially important to avoid them because you don't want to overpower the delicate flavors of the mushrooms and leeks) Heat a heavy and deep skillet over medium heat and melt 2 tbsp Earth Balance in it. Add the shallot, garlic and leeks and saute for a minute or two, then add mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms brown. Add the pasta and a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and stir and toss the pasta until it's evenly coated and glossy. Add the white wine and simmer, stirring frequently, until the wine is mostly absorbed. Add 1/2 a cup of stock and repeat the process. Once absorbed, add another 1/2 cup, and so on, until the stock is absorbed and the pasta is tender. Serve piping hot, and you just try not to eat 3 helpings, I dare you. It's so easy to vary this recipe, and use whatever herbs, spices and vegetables to different effects, plus the whole shebang takes less than 1/2 an hour, so it's a nice last minute meal idea. Enjoy!