Simple pasta like this is great because you don't need to create a separate sauce. The "sauce" is essentially an emulsion of olive oil and the starchy boiling liquid from the pasta. This creates a light yet creamy glaze that enrobes each piece of pasta in a thin layer of flavor.
The challenge is that they can become dry or greasy if the oil falls out of emulsion. I struggled with this for years until a brilliant chef told me the secret: pretend you're making risotto. The trick to maintaining the emulsion is to stir the pasta constantly. The agitation not only helps to maintain the emulsion but also encourages the pasta to slough off starch, which helps stabilize the emulsion.
This mushroom and bacon pasta is a popular menu item in pasta shops around Japan, and now that you know the secret, I hope you try it out along with its many variations!
- 200 grams shimeji mushrooms trimmed
- 250 grams penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 150 grams sliced bacon cut into bite-size pieces
- 9 grams garlic smashed
- 1 red chili pepper thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce to taste
- 1 scallion chopped
- Trim the growing medium off the growing medium from the bottom of the shimeji mushrooms and separate the individual mushrooms.
- Bring a well-salted pot of water to a boil and boil the penne for 2 minutes less than the time specified on the package.
- Add the olive oil bacon and smashed garlic to a frying pan and sauté over medium heat until the bacon has browned but is not yet crisp. If your bacon is particularly fatty, you'll want to use a paper towel to remove some of the oil, but make sure you still have about ¼ cup of oil remaining in the pan, as this forms the basis for the sauce.
- Add the shimeji mushrooms and chili peppers and saute until the mushrooms have started to brown.
- When the penne is done, use a slotted spoon to transfer it directly into the pan with the mushrooms and bacon. You also want to get some of the boiling liquid into the pan.
- Continue cooking the pasta with the mushrooms and bacon, like you would risotto. Add a ladleful of the boiling water from the pasta and stir until it has been absorbed. Then repeat until the pasta is cooked.
- When the pasta is cooked to your liking, finish the pasta by adding soy sauce to taste (I used 2 teaspoons). Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.