Hands-down the BEST mushroom pasta recipe without cream! Rich and velvety with loads of mushrooms, garlic, shallots, a little parmesan, and a lighter silky-smooth sauce. Grab the tips and watch my video below.
Mushroom pasta for mushroom lovers
If you're a serious mushroom lover, this recipe is calling your name.
There is not a drop of heavy cream in this mushroom pasta goodness, but no one will even miss it! This pasta dinner is every bit as comforting and it plays up the earthy, umami taste of mushrooms in the best way possible!
The secret to the best mushroom pasta
The key to this savory, rich mushroom pasta lies in the perfect 3:1 mushroom to pasta ratio.
Yes, you read this correctly, you will be using three times the amount of mushrooms to the amount of pasta in this recipe.
And for lots of earthiness and depth of flavor, I use three kinds of mushrooms: white buttons, baby bella, and meaty portobello mushrooms. Like I said in the video below, it will feel like we are using a mount of mushrooms but they will cook down in your pan to the perfect amount you need for an appropriately mushroomy pasta.
The flavors from a bit of garlic, shallots, and piney rosemary are the perfect complement to the earthiness of mushrooms. And a simple sauce that relies on extra virgin olive oil, a splash of red wine, and a bit of the pasta starchy water is all you need (I will tell you a bit more about the sauce later).
In most recipes, the finishing touches are optional, but I highly recommend you do not skip the Parmesan and chopped walnuts.
How to cook mushrooms
Cooking mushrooms for pasta is simple. My preferred method is to sauté the mushroom. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when sautéing mushrooms:
- Make sure the mushrooms are dry before you start. To clean off the dirt, use a lightly damp paper towel to wipe the mushrooms clean. If you wash them or submerge them in water, they will absorb water like a sponge and the final result will be squeaky mushrooms, not the texture you want.
- Do not slice them too thinly. You want the mushrooms to hold their shape, and if you slice them too thinly, as they cook they will shrivel down to nothing. In this recipe, I do use three kinds of mushrooms: white buttons, baby bella, and large portobello mushrooms. The white buttons and baby bellas should not be sliced no thinner than ¼ inch (closer to ½ inch in thickness is good). And for the portobello mushrooms, chop them roughly to bite size pieces but do not mince them or chop them too finely.
- Use a combination of extra virgin olive oil and just a little bit of butter to sauté the mushrooms. In this recipe I started with ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to cook a good pound and half of mushrooms with a bit of onions and garlic. If you use butter only, you will end up using too much butter because the bottom layer of the mushrooms will drink it up quickly, leaving the rest of the mushrooms dry. Allow them to cook for a little while then you can add another drizzle of olive oil.
- Season the mushrooms. Once in the pan, give the mushrooms a good toss in the hot pan and cook briefly, then season. A good pinch of kosher salt helps coax out the moisture for savory and tender mushrooms. You can add other spices at this point too, I added some black peppers and rosemary.
The starchy pasta water makes the sauce!
A typical pasta with mushrooms would involve a heavy cream-based sauce that you would likely cook separately and then spoon all over the pasta. I find that often times, the creamy sauce drowns the pasta and mutes the natural taste and richness of the mushrooms. That is why I personally prefer my sauce without cream.
Making a hearty garlic mushroom pasta without cream or too much butter is fairly simple. The secret ingredient is: A little of the starchy pasta water!
Don't underestimate that little bit of the pasta cooking water. A small amount of the starchy pasta water acts as a thickener, and with just a bit of cooking fat (mostly olive oil), shallots and garlic, and a little red wine and tomato paste for umami, it creates a silky sauce for this pasta, eliminating the need for heavy cream. And it helps to finish with a bit of freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
For best results, I like to use a pasta that is short and has some textured ridges to hold on to the sauce and grated cheese.
How to make mushroom pasta
This mushroom and pasta recipe is an easy one with two main components: the pasta and the mushroom sauce. Once you cook the pasta and sauté the mushrooms, everything will come together with a light sauce in one pan. For my visually inclined friends, here is how this recipe goes (friendly recipe with ingredient measurements below):
- Cook the pasta
Get you water boiling in a large pot and make sure you salt it very well. Follow the pasta package instructions to cook the pasta to al dante. Mine took 9 to 10 minutes. Before you drain the pasta, make sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water for later use. Drain the pasta well.
- Make the mushroom sauce
Use a large pan or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet here. Start by sautéing chopped shallots and minced garlic in a good bit of extra virgin olive oil (I used ⅓ cup) and just a little bit of butter (1 tablespoon is all you need). Add your mushrooms (it will look like a big mountain of mushrooms in your skillet, but do not worry, they will cook down nicely. Toss the mushrooms around to coat and season them with kosher salt, a little black pepper and some rosemary.
Once the mushrooms release their juices and gain some good color, add tomato paste, red wine, and about ½ to ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water. Cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes, and your gorgeous sauce is ready!
- Put the pasta together
Now, combine the pasta and the mushrooms in your large pan. Toss well to make sure the pasta is coated. Grate some Parmesan on top and finish with a handful of fresh parsley, crushed walnuts (the walnuts add some great texture and a nutty flavor). For a little heat, add some crushed red pepper flakes, but that is totally optional.
More mushroom recipes to try
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Garlic Mushroom Pasta Recipe
- 8 ounces dry pasta I used Toscani-shaped pasta
- Kosher salt
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 shallots minced
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 8 ounces Baby Bella Mushrooms sliced
- 8 ounces white mushrooms sliced
- 8 ounces portabella mushrooms roughly chopped
- black pepper
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- ¼ cup merlot wine
- ½ cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan)
- ½ cup packed parsley
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts
- Red pepper flakes to taste optional
- Cook the pasta to al dante in boiling salted water according to box instructions. Keep 1 cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the pasta.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive and butter over medium-high heat, add the shallots and garlic and cook, tossing regularly for 2 to 3 minutes (manage the heat so that the garlic does not burn).
- Add all the mushrooms and toss them around in the pan for a couple of minutes, adding another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season with a good pinch of kosher salt, black pepper and the rosemary. Cook the mushrooms for about 7 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they turn color and release their juices.
- Add the tomato paste, wine and about ½ to ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water. Cook over medium heat for about 4 to 5 minutes (this becomes your mushroom pasta sauce).
- Add the cooked pasta to the mushroom sauce. Toss to combine. If needed add a little bit more of the pasta cooking water.
- Stir in Parmesan cheese and finish with a sprinkle of parsley, walnuts and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately!