I am having the most relaxing evening. It is Friday night and pouring rain outside. We were munching on leftover pasta bake and salad (as much as I love cooking, nothing can beat leftovers) with a glass of wine and watching The Upside Down Show with the kids. (If you have preschool/lower primary aged kids this show is fantastic. Creative and so funny.)
We normally do pizza on a Friday night which is always a bit hurried after ballet so it is lovely to have a night off. Plus footy season is over so Joel won’t be wanting to watch footy TV tonight which will be a refreshing change.
Last night we had family over for dinner before Joel’s brother, sister-in-law and niece all returned home to America. It was sad to see them leave this morning as we won’t be seeing them for so long. However, the trip to the airport this morning was bittersweet as Elliott and his 20 month old cousin, Adelaide, held hands as they sat side by side in their car seats! I wish my camera didn’t have flat batteries at that moment.
There were quite a few people to feed last night so I got organised in the morning thanks to the faithful instruction from one of my favourite cookbooks ‘Meals In Heels – Do-Ahead Dishes For The Dinner Party Diva’. There are no photos in this cookbook. Just stylised illustrations. But I read this book like a novel, like I do with Nigella’s ‘How To Eat‘ (which could possibly be my favourite food book). There are so many gold snippets of information on catering for dinner parties. Each recipe gives you a guide on what to do either the day before or the morning before. Plus suggestions on how to present the final dish and suggestions on what to serve alongside. I love it!
So last night I made the Baked Orecchiette With Mushrooms and the Spinach And Feta Salad (well a slightly adapted version) to have alongside a few chickens roasted on the BBQ and lots of sourdough baguettes and dinner rolls. I made the orecchiette and mushroom sauce in the morning and popped it in the fridge. Then half an hour before dinner I sprinkled the top of the pasta with a mix of sourdough breadcrumbs and parmesan and popped it in the oven. So good to get the bulk of the work done in the morning and coincidentally, when little toddlers are sleeping.
I really love the pasta bake but just so you have a balanced view – Joel liked it but didn’t love it. He thinks orecchiette is too thick and he as a rule does not like mushrooms. I love mushrooms and I love orecchiette so I was really happy.
baked orecchiette with mushrooms
(from ‘Meals In Heels’ by Jennifer Joyce)
25g dried porcini mushrooms
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
3 large French shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
500g mixed mushrooms, such as chestnut and portobello, trimmed and chopped
75ml Marsala or Madeira
250g (1 cup) mascarpone
75g finely grated parmesan
100g (1 1/4 cups) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
1 very large handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Soak the porcini mushrooms in 200ml of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and rinse the mushrooms. Finely chop and put aside.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until still fairly al dente. (The recipe suggests 6 minutes, I cooked mine for a bit longer). Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
Heat 60ml (1/4 cup) of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and rosemary and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and the finely chopped porcini mushrooms, season well with salt and pepper and cook until browned, roughly 8 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until reduced by half. Add the reserved porcini liquid, mascarpone and half the parmesan. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened slightly.
Add the pasta and mix together then tip into a big 36 x 26 x 7 baking dish.
(This is the point I got to in the morning. I left it in the fridge until just before dinner.)
Combine the breadcrumbs and remaining parmesan (it helps to have all this prepared and waiting in a container or zip-lock bag) and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden. Sprinkle over the parsley to serve (a step I forgot about even though I had the parsley sitting and waiting in the fridge).
The books author, Jennifer Joyce, suggests ‘for something special’ garnish with some sprigs of rosemary that can be roasted for the final 5 minutes with the pasta.