If there’s any good news in the fact that summer is gone and winter is coming, it may be that colder weather seems to give us a permission slip from Mother Nature to once again enjoy those comfort foods we abstain from during bathing suit season.
How we define comfort food seems to be personal, though. What’s comforting to me may not do anything for you.
If you google it, Wikipedia will tell you comfort food is “Food which provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to the consumer, and is often characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, and simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to either the individual or a specific culture.” So, is comfort food about the carbs or about the memories?
My version of comfort food tends to be soul-satisfying in nature, i.e. savory, filling dishes that have deep, but not sharp, flavors … and those carbs and memories.
Getting all that to come together in one dish seems a lot to ask, but this week’s recipe does.
I made a version of Roasted Mushroom, Onion and Goat Cheese Penne years ago for my husband in the early years of our marriage. Back then, I didn’t know about roasting vegetables, so as the recipe instructed, I sautéed them before adding them to hot pasta with some goat cheese and enough pasta water to make an instant sauce. It turned out perfect, giving my new husband the impression that I knew what I was doing in the kitchen. So I made it again, and again, and again.
In the past few years, the dish had fallen off my rotation, as lots of other dishes hopped on. As I was roasting some mushrooms for another recipe, though, the deep smell brought the dish back to mind.
This time, instead of sautéing the mushrooms and onions for the dish, I roasted them with some fresh thyme and garlic and a generous drizzle of olive oil. If you don’t typically roast your mushrooms, stop what you’re doing right now and get some in the oven.
Roasted mushrooms are a revelation. The roasting process deepens their flavor and gives their texture a nice heartiness. It’s not tough or leathery, but it does have more of a bite.
Roasting the onions with the mushrooms caramelizes them, a plus, and eliminates the need to dirty another pan, a major plus.
Once the vegetables are roasted, you simply toss them in a large bowl with the goat cheese, cooked hot pasta and a little of the hot pasta water and dinner is served. The combination of earthy mushrooms, sweet onions and tangy goat cheese is well, memorable … and comforting.
Penne With Roasted Mushrooms, Onions and Goat Cheese
Note: Mixing the goat cheese with a little of the hot pasta water makes an instant sauce for this easy and flavorful pasta. From Meredith Deeds.
• 10 oz. mushrooms (mixed variety), cleaned and cut in half, crosswise
• 1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 12 oz. penne (tubular pasta)
• 4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
• 1/4 c. grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
• 2 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine mushrooms, onions, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread out on a large rimmed baking in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the garlic over the vegetables and stir to combine. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and browned.
Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on package, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. (Make sure to use the recommended amount of salt for the pasta, as the water will also season the final dish.)
In a large serving bowl, combine the hot pasta with the roasted mushrooms, goat cheese, Parmesan and parsley and 1/2 cup pasta water. Toss until creamy. If pasta seems dry, add a little more pasta water.
Garnish with more Parmesan and parsley, and serve.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 600 Fat 20 g Sodium 870 mg
Carbohydrates 80 g Saturated fat 7 g Total sugars 4 g
Protein 24 g Cholesterol 20 mg Dietary fiber 5 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 5 starch, 1 medium-fat protein, 2 fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.