Mushrooms, Dandelion Greens, and Pasta in a Cheese Sauce

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pasta with chives 2

Ingredients:
1 lb finely chopped mushrooms (finely chopped)
1 large fistful of dandelion greens (finely chopped)
1 tbsp of olive oil
3 round tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
20-40 grinds of pepper (to your taste)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups milk (I use 2%) (warmed)
2 cups gruyere cheese (grated)
1 lb of Rotelli pasta

 mushrooms 2

Method:

In a sauté pan, on med/high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the finely chopped mushrooms.  Sauté until the juices are released and have cooked off.  Add the chopped dandelion greens.  Cook just until the greens are wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil in a large pot for the pasta.   Keep your eye on it while making the cheese sauce.

Meanwhile...

Combine the flour, salt, and peppers in a ramekin and mix it together with a spoon (or a tiny whisk if you have one).  Warm the milk either in the microwave or on the stove top so it will be ready when you need it (do not boil it!).  Have the cheese already grated.

(When the salted water boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time, usually about 10 minutes for Rotelli, then drain.)

In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, melt the butter.  As soon as the butter begins to bubble whisk the flour into it.  It should have a paste-like consistency.  For two minutes continue to whisk the flour paste in the pan not allowing it to brown.

Now slowly add the warmed milk while continuing to whisk briskly to prevent lumping (be sure to whisk into the corners of the pan too).  Once the milk has been thoroughly combined with the paste, it will begin to thicken.  It is crucial not to let the sauce boil.  Whisk frequently until it has thickened to the consistency you like your cheese sauce to be.

Remove from the heat.  Gently stir the cheese into the sauce until it is all melted.

Using the pot you boiled your pasta in, combine your drained pasta, the cheese sauce, and the sautéed mushrooms and greens.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a garnish of chive flowers.



Recipe Notes: Mushrooms- you can use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe.  Use wild ones if you have them, or a combination of wild and cultivated, such as Crimini or white button mushrooms.  Since I don't know how to forage for them in my region and can't afford to buy wild, I usually use Crimins which are my favorite.
Cheese- Gruyere or Emmental are fantastic choices to accompany the mushrooms.  However, I can't afford to buy those here so I generally use a very sharp aged cheddar.  Don't use a cheese that is too mild (such as jack or medium cheddar) because the flavor will be lost in the cream sauce. It doesn't take long to make the cheese sauce so it's important to have the pasta cooking at the same time.  The only exception to this is if you are using an angel hair pasta that only takes three minutes to cook.  My best advice with this dish is to have all your ingredients out and ready to go so you waste no time looking for things or measuring.

 mushroom cheese pasta 2

Not sure why you would want to use dandelion greens?  Find out here: Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale): Plant Profile


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