1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. Baby Bella (or regular) mushrooms, soaked for 20 minutes, then washed/cleaned, & cut into 3/8" thick slices (about 3 c.)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
8 oz. container of mascarpone cheese
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
1/16 tsp. (pinch) freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste*
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 c. walnuts, shelled & broken into small pieces (gently crushed)
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, julienned (for garnish)
Directions: Bring 6 c. lightly salted water (seasoned with a drop of olive oil) to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add the farfalle & cook according to package instructions, until al dente, stirring occasionally.(Barilla Plus farfalle pasta takes 10 minutes to cook.) Drain (in a colander), rinse with cold water, drain again, & set aside.
While pasta is cooking, steam the spinach in 1/4 c. water, in a large (12-13") nonstick sauté pan on medium-high heat. Cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Spinach should be only lightly steamed (i.e., gently wilted) & when finished, should still retain its bright green color. Remove from heat. Let spinach cool, & then drain (over sink), squeezing out the moisture with your hands -- cup them together with the spinach in the center & press. (This method is honestly much more effective than using a colander or a sieve. You can extract a lot more moisture this way.) Place drained spinach into a small bowl & set aside. Wash out pan with soap & water, & dry.
Add the olive oil & butter to the same sauté pan over medium heat. When butter has melted, add the mushrooms, season with the thyme & half of the salt (1/4 tsp.), & sauté until most of the juices have evaporated & the mushrooms have turned a light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure to brown mushrooms on both sides. With about a minute to go, add the thyme & continue to cook. Stir in the cooked farfalle, followed by the mascarpone, parmesan, spinach, & tomatoes (if using) & toss until the cheese coats the pasta. Then, quickly remove from heat & stir in the walnuts. Season with nutmeg, black pepper, & remaining (1/4 tsp.) salt. Divide into equal portions, garnish each with fresh basil, and serve immediately with a salad or other vegetable side.
Yield: 2-4 servings.
Chef's Notes: *Easy does it on the nutmeg. It's very strong, so be very careful not to overseason or it'll taste so bitter it'll be inedible. This dish has a creamy, subtle flavor, so the smallest amount of nutmeg will really stand out. A little goes a long way.