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Just as Christmas is always on December 25, World Pasta Day is always on October 25. It’s a day when all of us at Oldways try to work some pasta onto the menu. This year, since World Pasta Day fell on a Sunday, Dun, Sara, Erika, and Sara T traveled to New York last Monday to hold a scientific symposium on pasta, while I stayed home and did my part by simply eating pasta. This Tortellini with Mushrooms and Spinach was a totally invented-on-the-spot dish. Shitake mushrooms were on sale this week, and I had a coupon for $1 off a package of Buitoni whole grain tortellini, so an idea started to form in my mind of the kind of rich, flavorful mushroom sauces I’d seen at neighboring tables – but not tasted – on vacation in Rome. It came out quite well, so I’d like to share what I did: Ingredients
  • olive oil and butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • ¼ lb. Shitake mushrooms
  • 4 white button mushrooms
  • ½ link pre-cooked spinach-feta chicken sausage, sliced paper thin
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ½ tsp dry thyme leaves
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 ice-cube of frozen pesto
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped slightly
  • 1 package whole grain cheese tortellini
  • freshly grated parmesan, optional


  1. Fill a 3-quart saucepan about halfway full of water, and bring to a boil, then cook tortellini according to package directions.
  2. Cook the shallots in a little oil and butter until soft and golden, while you remove the mushroom stems and slice the ‘shrooms.
  3. Add the mushrooms and sausage and brown with the shallots. Add extra olive oil if necessary.
  4. When everything is brown and lovely, add the garlic and thyme, and cook until their flavor starts to release.
  5. Add the wine and the pesto, then turn up the heat a bit to cook off the alcohol and melt the pesto-cube.
  6. Add the baby spinach and cook until it wilts. Pour in a little of the pasta water to keep sauce moist.
  7. Drain the tortellini, arrange it in two bowls, and top with the mushroom spinach sauce. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan, if you’d like.

This was one of those clean-the-fridge dishes when I simply see what’s there and think about whether it would fit. I could have made a sauce totally with mushrooms, shallots, oil, garlic and wine and it would have been delicious. A few weeks ago, however, I picked all the basil in my herb garden before the first frost, made a batch of pesto, and packed it in an ice-cube tray. Now I can add little bits of summer-flavor to some of my winter dishes by just grabbing a cube. Once I added that little bit of green color, it looked so nice I added the spinach, too. And the sausage? We keep nitrate-free chicken sausage around and substitute it for prosciutto or pancetta in Italian dishes, for bacon in Sunday omelettes, and for fattier sausages in bean soups.

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Thus are recipes born. Lew declared the Tortellini with Mushroom Spinach Sauce “A List” which is his highest accolade. This one’s a keeper.

- Cindy

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