This dish is inspired by a pizza that ABSOLUTELY love and used to quite often make for myself. I remember this phase well. I constantly had a hankering for wild mushrooms, gorgonzola and spinach. Something I secretly enjoyed when I had evenings on my own. Yes, we all have people in our lives that have a distain for stinky, moldy cheese. Mmmm, and how I love the combination. Not wanting to go through all the effort of making pizza dough (or the thought over eating waaay too many slices, this risk is always there!), I decided to give it a try with pasta. The result is a quick and deliciously rich dish delivered in less than 20 minutes.
I use fresh thyme and marjoram as I think the flavors meld nicely with the mushrooms and the gorgonzola sauce. Dried herbs can also be used if fresh aren’t on hand. I use the general rule of thumb: 1 tablespoons fresh = 1 teaspoon dry. I also add dry herbs early on during the cooking so that the flavors have time to develop and infuse themselves. Fresh herbs are best added near or at the end to finish off a dish.
As for marjoram….ever wonder what the difference between marjoram and oregano is? Often used interchangeably, there are some subtle differences. Consider marjoram, the sweeter, calmer, delicate twin to oregano. Oregano being the zesty, peppery, bolder of the two. Because of its delicacy, marjoram is more suited to lighter dishes, such as chicken and seafood…and in this case mushrooms. Oregano on the other hand, is bold and spicy and best paired with tomato sauces or heartier meat dishes. Sure go ahead, the flavors won’t be wildly different if you use one in place of the other.
Want to know more? Here’s a good explanation: marjoram versus oregano
400 g penne (other tubular pasta), reserving 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the cooking liquid
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
500 g mixed mushrooms (such as oyster, shiitake, cremini), chopped into bite-sized pieces
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
2 tablespoons fresh chopped marjoram
250 g gorgonzola, roughly chopped
200 g baby spinach leaves (about 5-6 handfuls)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
freshly grated parmesan, to taste
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the cooking liquid.
2. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, sauté shallots and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a pinch salt. Continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender; about 5 minutes.
3. Drain pasta and return to the saucepan; toss with remaining olive oil, mushroom mixture, fresh herbs, gorgonzola and finally the spinach. Stir in one tablespoon of the cooking liquid at a time until sauce reaches the desired consistency and the spinach has wilted. Season pasta with salt and pepper. Garnish with parmesan and serve immediately.