Mark Bittman is a culinary hero of mine, and his recipe for cooking pasta in the style of risotto is nothing short of brilliant. He has a keen ability to take simple ingredients and pull them together in new ways that inspire me. You can find Mark’s recipes in his books about cooking and healthy diet, or in The New York Times almost every week.
You can use any cut, dried pasta – penne, fusilli, farfalle – even spaghetti broken into pieces. No need to make a special trip to buy the traditional arborio rice used in most risotto recipes. I used gemelii because that’s what I had in the pantry. After all, who doesn’t have pasta and stock on hand?
Although it takes about an hour from prep to finish, Mark streamlines the method by using room temperature stock. Now you have one less pan to wash and that much less heat in a summer kitchen. And there is no need for a huge pot of boiling water to cook the pasta, as you will see…
Omit the chicken and use vegetable stock and you have a vegetarian entrée. Any sliced mushrooms will do and I sometimes just throw in left-over cooked chicken. I found his cooking times a bit short and adjusted them in my version. He suggests these proportions serve four and I think that was a typo. Two generous portions result from this amount of pasta.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil to brown mushrooms, 2 more tablespoons to coat pasta
- 1 shallot or small onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- 2 cups button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- ½ pound dried, cut pasta such as gemelli
- kosher salt and/or ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2½ cups homemade or low sodium chicken stock
- 2 boneless chicken thighs, chopped
- flat-leaved parsley and fresh grated Parmesan, optional garnishes
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes until mushrooms are browned.
- Add 2 more tablespoons of oil, add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and/or pepper and add the wine. Cook until the wine has been absorbed.
- Add the stock in ½ cup portions, stirring after each addition. Keep the heat at medium throughout the process. Once the stock has been mostly absorbed, add another ½ cup.
- After the pasta has cooked a total of 20 minutes and all the stock added, taste it. It should be tender with a bit of firmness. Add the chicken and cook until it is white in the center. Risotto should be neither soupy nor dry.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and Parmesan. Serve.