Serves: 6 | Total Time: 30 Minutes
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I have always been inspired by gourmet food, and although going out to a fancy restaurant can be fun in it’s own right (how can you beat the softly playing piano in the background?) it isn’t always practical.
I am probably speaking for most of us who are on some kind of a budget and can’t spend upwards of $500 on a date night meal. I can bet that most of us don’t even want to spend over $100!
The thing is, I love the fine dining experience, (and I assume you do too or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post). There is no reason why we should have to miss out just because money is tight. This is where gourmet home cooked meals come in handy, and they don’t have to be intimidating. In fact, most of them are easier than you think!
Let me explain just how I came to know this…
I’ve spent a good number of years working in high-end restaurants and I have not regretted a single day. There is something magical about stepping out of a clamoring kitchen with all it’s bright lights and busyness into a dimly-lit dining room humming with soft spoken voices and the gentle clink of silverware on china.
Now, I’ve never had a problem with being able to transition from perspiring server all buttoned up in a tuxedo to polished expert on what wine to pair with sautéed foie gras drizzled with beurre blanc – all in the span of 30 seconds (the time it takes to hustle from kitchen to dining room).
That was the fun part!
The part I didn’t like was not being able to have the full experience for myself…. simply because I couldn’t afford it. And I’ll admit that I do enjoy being on the other side of the fence.
I mean, who wouldn’t?
In my opinion, it is worth a few hundred dollars every once in a while to sit at a candlelit table under some historic crystal light fixture while a server fawns over you (and they will at those high-end establishments, trust me!). I get to indulge in a gourmet dish I’ve most likely never had before while quietly sipping wine with my husband. Although I am a chef at heart, it is nice to have the cooking done for me sometimes (and the cleaning up, for that matter, too).
But let’s be realistic, dining out at such places is usually reserved for special… (ah-hem)… very special occasions. As in, once every 15 years or something like that.
This is why I taught myself how to cook gourmet meals at home. Taking everything I ever learned from reading food magazines and working with some of the finest chefs I’ve ever met, I tinkered with tried and true recipes until I was gutsy enough to start creating my own.
This recipe is one of my first successful attempts at gourmet home cooking. The truffles are not necessary if you use truffle infused olive oil, and the flavored olive oil is a whole lot cheaper, so use it if you are on a budget. If you can get actual truffles, do use them, just in moderation because they have a very strong flavor. There really isn’t anything else on the planet that will ever come close to mimicking the flavor of truffles, so you need to get your hands of some if you want to make this recipe. Here are some resources to help you out:
Now, as far as the ambience – I don’t have a recipe for that. But since this quick and easy gourmet dinner only takes 30 minutes to make, you’ll have plenty of time to iron that table linen and dust off the china…
… or not. You can simply just close your eyes and let the flavors whisk you away…
Watch how to make this easy date night dinner:
Pasta in Truffle Oil with Mushrooms and Spinach
- 12 ounces angel hair pasta uncooked
- 3 tablespoons black truffle olive oil divided, OR
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1/2 teaspoon minced truffles
- 3 tablespoons plain olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 cups mixed mushrooms, such as maitake, trumpet, and portobello torn into 1-inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon sage leaves finely chopped, plus more whole leaves for garnish
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves finely chopped
- shaved parmesan cheese for serving
- Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving the pasta liquid. Set both aside. If using plain olive oil with minced truffles, now would be the time to whisk the two together. (The truffles will sink to the bottom, so when it comes time to use the oil in the recipe, give it a good whisk while adding to the skillet to stir them up again.)
- While the pasta cooks, heat 2 tablespoons of the truffle olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about a minute until sizzling, stirring frequently. Next, throw in the garlic and heat for another minute, stirring continuously to prevent charring. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally for 5-8 minutes or until the mushrooms have given up their juices and are beginning to brown. Scrape the vegetables into a bowl and set aside.
- Using the same skillet, heat the 3rd tablespoon truffle olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spinach. Toss frequently in the skillet until wilted, about a minute. Transfer to the bowl with the mushrooms and allow to cool slightly.
- Add the drained pasta back into the pot it was prepared in and turn the heat on to low. Season with salt and pepper, then add a ladle of the pasta liquid back in along with one tablespoon plain olive oil to prevent the pasta from getting sticky. Stir until warmed through and the pasta is glossy.
- Heat the 2 remaining tablespoons plain olive oil in a small skillet over medium high. When the oil is hot enough that a bead of water jumps off it, add the whole sages leaves. Fry them until they begin to darken, about a minute, then carefully flip them. Continue to fry for another minute or so until the leaves are just starting to brown, then remove them promptly to a paper towel. Set aside. The leaves will brown very quickly, so it is important to remove them as soon as you see any browning. This way, they will be crispy – but still green and pretty.
- Return the vegetables to the skillet, then add the pasta and toss to combine over medium heat. Throw in the chopped herbs and give it all a final toss, adding more olive oil if the pasta begins to dry out.
- Serve immediately. Garnish with a final drizzle of olive oil, shaved parmesan cheese, and the fried sage leaves. If you used minced truffles, you can add a small dollop on top for effect, but if you do this, do it sparingly because the flavor of truffles is very strong and you don't want it to overpower the flavors of the herbs. Add a grind of black pepper and you're done!