What has mushrooms, garlic and oil and little else?
December 20, 2008 5:04 PM   Subscribe

What simple pasta dish has just mushrooms and garlic and olive oil and some spices?

I used to go to a small Italian restaurant in Richmond, VA that had a dish called Penne Karl that I absolutely loved. I've tried to duplicate the recipe many times by experimentation. And I've tried to find recipes online for it. But all to no avail.

All I know about it is that it's got some small sliced mushrooms, tons of minced garlic, and it's sauteed in olive oil. I think it's also got some green spices and maybe salt. But I don't know. It was usually served tossed with Penne and with a dish of Parmesan cheese to add at the table.

Does anyone know a recipe like this that actually has some flavor unlike my attempts? Maybe it's all in the choice of ingredients. Maybe roasted garlic? Maybe a particular kind of mushroom? Infused oil?
posted by davathar to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
A good way to add extra mushroom flavor to a mushroom dish is to start with an ounce or two of dried porcini -- soak them until they're tender, then chop and add them with your regular mushrooms. Strain the soaking liquid and add them into the dish later on if you need more liquid.

As for "green spices" -- those could be anything. I like to put lots of parsley in everything, but thyme might go better with mushrooms.
posted by rossination at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2008

You metion is was tossed with "green spices". Could it be a pesto sauce? You can put garlic and mushroom water/oil in it to make it looser and give it more flavor, if that's what you were wanting.

It looks like this recipe sounds like what you are talking about, maybe?
posted by Night_owl at 5:29 PM on December 20, 2008

Oops. Except, y'know, without the pureed mushrooms bit.
posted by Night_owl at 5:30 PM on December 20, 2008

is the restaurant still open? give them a call, say you used to go there and eat this particular dish and loved it, and now you live far away and miss it terribly and would really appreciate it if they could let you know how to make it, or even just give you a hint of what to do.
posted by lia at 5:31 PM on December 20, 2008

in addition to your choice of fresh sliced mushrooms, try adding dried porcini mushrooms. they are very flavorful.

first you need to soak the dry mushrooms in some hot water for 20 minutes or so. squeeze out the water after the soaking and slice them thin. reserve the water they were soaking in.

saute the garlic in olive oil on low heat--don't let the garlic burn. add the sliced fresh mushrooms, and the soaked and sliced porcini mushrooms. salt and pepper to taste. cook until soft, a few minutes.

at this point, in my family, we like to add a bit of sherry [or similar] to the mushrooms, and a little of the porcini soaking water.

turn off the heat. you can add a small amount of cream now, if you like. toss the hot, cooked pasta with the sauce right in the pan. plate, sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated cheese if desired.

it's a nice simple dish but not terribly filling. a good first course!
posted by subatomiczoo at 5:31 PM on December 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

o my gosh, rossination was a quicker draw than me!
posted by subatomiczoo at 5:32 PM on December 20, 2008

This recipe has become a favorite of mine. Fresh thyme goes really, really well with mushroom dishes.
posted by adiabat at 5:32 PM on December 20, 2008

I agree with the use of some dried porcini in addition with the fresh mushrooms; they add intense mushroom flavor like nobody's business.

I also find that with super simple mushroom recipes, technique is very important. Mushrooms are a lot like meat; they taste best with a good sear. When you're sauteeing the 'shrooms, use more oil and higher heat (sort of the low side of medium-high on my electric stove) than you think you need. Be very careful not to overcrowd the pan. If there's too much in the pan, they'll just stew in liquid rather than sear. Put them in the pan, give a good stir, and then forget about them for a minute. Just let the mushrooms sit for a bit and get a caramelized sear on one side. Once they've got some color, stir them around. Feel free to do more than one batch of mushrooms (adding a bit of additional oil) to make sure they've got plenty of room.

When they're cooked, then toss in the garlic (again, more than you think you need) and, I'd suggest, some chopped shallot. Cook for maybe 30-60 seconds. Put all the mushrooms in the pan, then pour on a generous splash of wine (red or white), vermouth, or sherry. Let it cook down for a second, but not until the pan is dry. Turn down the heat and toss the cooked pasta with the mushroom. Stir around a bit and add some additional oil or a bit of butter at the end. Finish with coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, and herbs.
posted by mostlymartha at 5:34 PM on December 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Butter, butter, butter.

The "green spices" are probably flat leaf parsley at the end.

Did I mention to throw in some butter? Use twice what you think is necessary (with olive oil) and then cut back if you've overdone it (unlikely).

Also, you're missing fresh ground pepper. And you mention salt as a maybe? Of course there's salt.

Also try some bread crumbs (I've started using Japanese Panko for convenience). Somewhere (I'll need to ask the missus) I worked recently with a recipe which called for bread crumbs as a condiment -- in lieu of parmesan -- at the table. Butter and garlic and maybe olive oil were involved. But I've done other pasta recipes which call for crumbs in the skillet as one makes the "sauce" (pasta con sarde comes to mind) which could work well here.
posted by Dick Paris at 6:09 PM on December 20, 2008

Okay, so I don't know about that place in Richmond, but I know my way with mushrooms. My favorite Marcella Hazan's standard approach would indeed suggest that the herbs you've seen are lots of chopped parsley (Classic Italian Cooking - I forget which page. But in very many of her other recipes too).
The idea with the dried porcinis is good, but if you want pure fresh white mushroom flavor, you could proceed like this:
Have really crisp, truly white, not too large mushrooms.
Slice them in quarter-inch-thick slices.
Chop lots of garlic and parsley.
Heat a lot of good olive oil in a large, heavy frying pan.
When medium hot, put in parsley and garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, while stirring.
Slide in the mushroom slices, avoid too much overlapping. Do two batches if there's trouble. Stir to let them absorb the oil, then let sit and cook, stir again. Adjust the heat so nothing gets brown. After a minute or so, add salt (if this is for pasta, be quite liberal) and rather a lot of freshly crushed black pepper, stir again. Let them boil in their juices for another minute or so.

Now for pasta, one can go further than that. A true fresh porcini sauce, for example, would have produced enough (slightly slimy) juice to bind the pasta - white mushrooms prepared like I wrote don't, or shouldn't. So I would add double cream. I could add a teaspoon mushroom powder at this point as well - not earlier, it should blend with the cream flavor (I prepare mushroom powder by dry-mixing dried porcini in an old coffee mill or a mixer. To the story belongs that I find porcinis right here in the woods). Reduce the cream (no-no to adding the cream after cooking. You want nice thick cream and concentrated flavors. Bubble it into submission). Add a dash of white wine, or lemon juice. Reduce a bit more, check for salt and that's it.

White mushrooms do have some flavor, but usually it gets lost along the way by mistake. So no pesto, no hanky-panky flavored oils, and no toasted garlic - for me. Yes you can use butter instead of olive oil. Whatever you think is healthiest (butter is good...).
posted by Namlit at 6:22 PM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've made this recipe. It is delicious. Nigella Lawson's Linguine with mushrooms, garlic, and thyme.

YouTube demonstration.
posted by Fairchild at 6:31 PM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. I have been cooking a lot for myself and others since I decided to go vegan a few years ago. And this recipe has eluded me for that time after many attempts. I'm not a great cook by any means, but I'm getting much better and learning about many ethnic styles of cooking from Thai to Italian. It's actually kind of hard to cook with so much variety. So I try to do mostly Indian for a month or so, then Chinese/Japanese and so on. I'm going for Italian next and I can't wait to get those porcinis! I'll try the thyme too.
posted by davathar at 7:47 PM on December 20, 2008

Here's a blog post from someone who might know, but isn't telling on his blog. Maybe you can contact him? (And then come back and let all of us know, too).
posted by dilettante at 7:51 PM on December 20, 2008

Davathar, was this Richmond restaurant by chance Mamma Zu in Oregon Hill? I ate an identical sounding dish there years ago, and I've recreated it time and time again to rave reviews. I don't remember what Mamma Zu called it, but I call it "Assloads of Mushroom Pasta."

First remember that mushrooms cook down quite a lot. I like to use 2-3 pounds of sliced mushrooms for a pound of pasta. I use a mix of whatever's in the store or farmers' market: mini portobella, regular portobella, cremini, porcini--whatever they've got that'll be good and earthy. Don't chop them finely, just thickly slice them. They'll get really small. The mushrooms also soak up a lot of oil, so I sautee all those shrooms with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Maybe a touch of white wine too, or dry vermouth. Add some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Don't use dried herbs, only fresh. As everyone else has said, parsley or thyme would taste best in this, or maybe a little rosemary. But only fresh!

That's really it. But if you ate this at Mamma Zu, don't forget that you have to accompany it with red wine served in a juice glass!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:07 PM on December 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

I love Penne Karl! "Assloads of garlic" is a conservative estimate, too.

I know one of the cooks at Edo's Squid (the actual restaurant in question, not Mama 'Zu). I'll have a chance to see him over the holidays, I'm pretty sure, so I'll make a point to ask him for anything he can tell me about the recipe.
posted by emelenjr at 8:34 PM on December 20, 2008

Response by poster: Yes, it was Mamma Zu. I used to go there for lunch all the time, so it was usually the spoon stands up coffee that I enjoyed drinking. I usually got the eggplant parm when I was there for dinner. And mmmm the roasted peppers and mozz.... I miss that place. Not so much the staff though ;-) That reputation for rude staff is true. The waitresses were usually ok the last few years. But the guys behind the bar were jerks.

I'm going to enjoy trying a few variations based on all these responses.
posted by davathar at 8:38 PM on December 20, 2008

Response by poster: Where do you people come from! I post a random question about a mushroom pasta recipe and people who have eaten the same dish at the same restaurant respond within a couple hours! 14 years online and the net never ceases to amaze me.
posted by davathar at 8:41 PM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ah, you're probably right. Penne Karl might be on the menu at Mamma 'Zu, too, as both restaurants are owned by the same guy. Penne Karl is my usual order at Edo's Squid, and at Mamma 'Zu I stick with the penne, Gorgonzola and peas. At any rate, I'll see what I can get out of one of the cooks I know at Edo's Squid.
posted by emelenjr at 9:47 PM on December 20, 2008

The Hazan is "Sauteed Mushrooms with Olive Oil, Garlic, and Parsley" in Classics, p509

1.5lbs crimini/white buttons, 1.5t minced garlic, 1/2C olive oil, 3T parsley chopped vfine, salt/pepper. The interesting technique is alternating med high heat to boil off the mushroom water when it accumulates.
posted by rhizome at 10:34 PM on December 20, 2008

with super simple mushroom recipes, technique is very important. Mushrooms are a lot like meat; they taste best with a good sear.

This is the key. Make sure your shrooms are basically roasting in the pan, getting nice and dark and nearly crispy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:17 PM on December 20, 2008

Yo kind of answered your own question!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:32 AM on December 21, 2008

Where do you people come from! I post a random question about a mushroom pasta recipe and people who have eaten the same dish at the same restaurant respond within a couple hours!

I was born and raised in Richmond but haven't lived there in 20 years. I ate at Mamma Zu exactly one time. And I haven't read or answered a question on AskMe in a long time. It must be kismet! Or there's something magical about Assloads of Mushroom Pasta.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:15 PM on December 21, 2008

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