Super-Mushroomy Tiny Pasta Cooked Creamy Like Risotto (But Easier)

Super-Mushroomy Tiny Pasta Cooked Creamy Like Risotto

Recipe excerpt from:
The Global Pantry Cookbook
by Ann Taylor Pittman and Scott Mowbray

Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

Global Pantry Ingredients: 

  • Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • Marsala


Scott never quite mastered risotto, and mostly left it to the restaurant pros after he began cooking acini di pepe, a tiny semolina pasta shape similar in size to pearl couscous, in the risotto style, inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe of yore. The texture of the pasta here is delightfully supple. It’s an easy, earthy, sophisticated main dish, perfect with a medium-bodied Italian red such as a Barbera or a Valpolicella. Add the optional marsala if you like a slightly deeper, more winey flavor.

Try This!

Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Dried porcini possess a concentration of rich, earthy flavor, an unmatched essence of mushroom that’s released when soaked or powdered in a chopper. Look for American or European versions in supermarkets, Whole Foods, and online, in one or two-ounce packets.

Timing Tip

Cook Just Until Almost Done
The size and manufacturer of the pasta, and how vigorously you cook it, will vary the cooking time quite a bit. To avoid mush, stop when it’s just reaching the al dente stage—it will continue to cook as you add the cheese and serve. The consistency should be a bit saucy, not like seized-up porridge. Slightly larger pasta such as orzo will likely take a bit longer. 

  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced as finely as you can manage
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced 
  • 12 ounces acini di pepe or other tiny pasta such as orzo
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon dry marsala wine or rich sherry (such as oloroso) (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or 1 cup super-finely Microplane-grated Parmesan
  1. Chop half of the dried mushrooms into pea-sized bits. Place in a small microwave-safe bowl with 1 cup of water and microwave on High for 2 minutes; set aside. Place the other half of the dried mushrooms in a mini food processor; pulverize to a powder, about 45 seconds (there will be small flecks or chunks in the powder, and that’s the idea).
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter, swirling until it melts. Add the onion; sauté until softened and blond in color, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and sauté until just starting to soften, 3 minutes more. Add the soaked mushrooms with their liquid, the mushroom powder, and pasta; cook with the heat turned high enough for it to bubble energetically, stirring frequently until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. 
  3. This starts the risotto-style cooking process: Continue to stir, adding the white wine and then the stock a little at a time, letting the pasta absorb the liquid, before gradually adding the rest of the stock. When the pasta is almost cooked, about 18 minutes, add the marsala, if using, the thyme, and the salt. When the pasta is just al dente, correct the consistency with stock or hot water if necessary (it should be saucy, not porridge-like). Immediately portion into 4 bowls and top with a few turns of black pepper and the grated cheese. 

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