What do food stylists/food photographers eat at the end of a long day working with food? Someone asked me that recently and my answer, possibly shamefully, was 2-minute noodles. You see boiling a kettle and adding a sachet of MSG to noodles is pretty much all I am capable of on particularly hectic days when I have been on my feet for 16 hours. (This is not a career to consider if you have a bad back.) Plus I also quite like the taste. So there, I’ve confessed, judge me if you want.
If I have a bit more energy, I may rustle up some pasta, but I want someone else to do all the work. What I want is maximum flavour delivered for minimal effort. Take this decadent little creamy mushroom pasta recipe. It has just six ingredients (oil and S&P don’t count) and involves zero peeling or chopping. Plus it’s done in just 15 minutes if you work fast, 20 if you’re a tad tardy.
A mix of brown and white mushrooms (already cleaned and chopped by the supermarket!) a tub of mascarpone, parmesan and good store-bought mushroom stock forms the base. Just add thyme and lemon and you’re done. This sinfully rich sauce is woody and earthy with a perfumed top note thanks to the citrus. Boil the pasta while you’re making the sauce and that’s dinner done in next to no time.
All you need is…
600g mixed brown and white mushrooms, chopped
1 tbs vegetable oil
5 sprigs thyme
½ cup water
2 x 25g sachets mushroom liquid stock concentrate from Woolworths (I adore all their liquid stock concentrate stick packs, they’re just brilliant)
250g tub mascarpone
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan or aged pecorino
zest of 1 large lemon, grated on a microplane or made into thin strips with a zester
juice of half a lemon
1 level tbs corn flour, dissolved in 2 tbs cold water (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
cooked pasta, for serving
block of parmesan, for serving
Fifteen minutes folks, I promise. Ready? Set? Let’s go! Place a large thick-bottomed stainless steel frying pan on highest heat. Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to the seriously hot pan and tumble in the mushrooms and thyme sprigs. Cook, stirring, on high heat for five minutes. Now add the water and liquid stock as well as the mascarpone and parmesan. Stir until smooth and add the lemon zest. (If the sauce is too thin for your liking at this point, also add the optional corn flour now.) Turn the heat down low, cover and cook for a further five minutes. Remove from heat, squeeze in juice of half a lemon and give it loads of freshly ground black pepper – a good 10 turns of your pepper grinder if not more. I also added a very generous pinch of sea salt as I thought it needed it, but taste and adjust according to your liking.
Serve this with any pasta you prefer. I served mine on one of my favourite dry pastas – charming Pantacce, which is diamond-shaped with frilly edges. It reminds me a bit of those old-fashioned knickers with layers of lace that female tennis stars wore in the 70s. I found my pantacce, made by la Molisana, at my local Checkers.