I recently unpacked a few boxes of books that were stored away and uncovered some cookbooks I hadn’t looked through in awhile.
They’re now all neatly in a row on my new bookshelf, so I suspect they will be getting some use in the coming weeks and months, but as I looked at each one before finding it a good spot on the shelf, I was reminded of how my mom taught me to choose whether or not I should purchase a cookbook.
The problem with cookbooks—and online recipes, for that matter—is that it’s impossible not to be pulled in by the cover image. It always looks delicious, and it always looks like something I would love to eat.
Instead of looking at the photos, though, Mom always says to open the cookbook to somewhere in the middle and look at the recipe on that page. If the steps require a bunch of specialty cookware or the ingredients list is super exotic, put the cookbook back on the shelf—you’ll never use it.
Despite that directive, I will often bookmark online recipes that look expensive or complicated as long as I think I can do enough substituting to make it happen. That was the case with this week’s recipe.
The recipe I tried came from the online magazine “Kitchn.” You can find it at https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-mushroom-and-garlic-spaghetti-dinner-243627. I added extra garlic and decided to introduce spinach into it. I also simplified the ingredients a bit. The original calls for cremini mushrooms, which tend to be more expensive, and I used parmesan instead of Pecorino Romano cheese, since that’s what was easily available in my local grocery store.
Mushroom and Garlic Spaghetti
- 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms sliced (I used baby bellas, but use what’s available)
- 8 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves loosely packed
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package instructions. When it is done, drain it but reserve about 3/4 cup of the cooking water for later.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper. Saute, stirring regularly, for about five minutes until the mushrooms are browned to your liking.
- Add the remaining butter, garlic and red pepper flakes and saute one more minute.
- Add the pasta, cooking water, spinach and parmesan to the skillet and stir for about two minutes or until the cheese is melted and coats the pasta.
- Serve immediately with more cheese on top.
You wouldn’t have to add the red pepper flakes if you’re not a fan of spice, but it was pretty mild overall, so don’t let them make you nervous.
We had some leftovers, too, and this reheated pretty well, although it was much better straight out of the pan.
And with using some less luxury ingredients, I was able to make this for dinner very economically. I’m sure a professional would tell me I lost out on some high-quality mushrooms and flavorful cheese, but we still had a great supper, and I’ll leave those ingredients to the pros when I’m ordering off a menu.
As it stands, it turns out my mom was right yet again. But, of course, that’s certainly no surprise to me.
This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 10, 2019.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.