Pasta Shells with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (Pasta Salad Recipe)

Pasta Shells with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms (Pasta Salad Recipe) Recipe

Pasta dishes are always a favorite in my house and this green pasta shell dish is no exception. I decided to experiment with the new barbecue we bought over Memorial Day weekend, so I grilled some tandoori chicken for an alternate version of this recipe. Before cooking the meat, I also grilled large Portobello mushrooms for the vegetarians in my family. I love using this kind of mushroom; they are meaty and add so much flavor to a dish. To finish the preparation, I flavored the pasta with a sweet basil oil, green and pink peppercorns, lentils and onions. The sweet basil oil has a pungent flavor, thanks to the addition of garlic.

I consider the dish relatively healthy as it's vegan. No cheese, butter or cream are involved, but that doesn't mean the dish lacks flavor. What I love most though about making this pasta dish is that you could serve it warm, or bring it along with you for a picnic and serve it at room temperature as a pasta salad. The weather is getting so warm in the Bay Area that it's time for us to get all the blankets, picnic bags and ice cooler from the attic and enjoy meals outdoors for many weekends to come!  

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1-½ cups sweet basil leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
2/3 cup olive oil, as needed
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 Portobello mushrooms
1 (16-ounce) package medium pasta shells
½ cup French green Puy lentils
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 teaspoon lemon thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 teaspoon green peppercorns


Directions

For the basil oil:

Reserve about 2 tablespoons of parsley.

Blanch (dip for 10 seconds in boiling water then transfer to an ice-cold bath) the basil and parsley, drain, pat dry on a paper towel and roughly chop.

In a mini-food processor or mini-blender, combine the blanched, chopped parsley and basil, half of the lemon juice and a clove of garlic. Pulse and slowly add about 6 tablespoons olive oil until it becomes a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepping the lentils: Wash the lentils. Discard any floating lentils or odd-shaped grains. Soak the lentils overnight. Bring 6 fresh cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils, bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20-25 minutes total. Salt (1 teaspoon) the water half-way through the cooking process and keep stirring every now and then so the lentils don't stick to the bottom. The lentils should be tender but still firm. Drain the lentils, then transfer to an iced bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid.

For the mushrooms: Brush the grill with oil. Lightly coat the mushrooms with oil using a silicone brush.  Season with salt and pepper. Place the pieces on the grill. Cook  over medium heat until you get grill marks (about 2-3 minutes on each side). Remove from the barbecue. Once the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice them.

For the onions: Heat a pan on the grill. Add the rest of the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions. Cook until translucent and soft.


Cooking pasta shells:

Bring about 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and it will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that's written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), transfer it to a large serving bowl. Add lemon juice. Season with 1/3 teaspoon of salt.

Assembly time:

While the pasta is still warm, add the basil oil to the pasta and mix well. Add the onions, lentils, mushrooms and green and pink peppercorns. Adjust seasoning. Cover and let stand until you're ready to serve.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Garnish with the remaining parsley.

I accompanied the pasta salad with tandoori chicken.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I use parsley stems as well as the leaves, because that's where the flavor is the most potent.

Pink peppercorns have a delicate, fragrant, sweet and spicy flavor. They are reminiscent of a mild citrus zest and sweet berries. These peppercorns have a rich rose color that adds an elegant appearance to any cuisine.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on June 5, 2010.


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