Creamy mushroom pasta will make everyone happy at the dinner table. An earthy, silky, creamy, satisfying pasta dish that - you’d never know - doesn’t use any cream.
Mushrooms are finally getting the attention they deserve in North America. Not only do they have unique health benefits, they’re also considered vegan and recommended in many different diets.
Grocery stores sell fresh mushrooms year round and more and more stores are expanding their mushroom section to more diverse selection. Not only can you find the most commercially produced mushrooms with such names as cremini, baby bella, portobello, and button mushroom (it’s all the same species, just different ages), you can often also find more exotic species like shitake, enoki, lion’s mane, and oysters. And at the farmer’s market you can get lucky and find such seasonal gems as chanterelles, morels, and maitake.
But back to the creamy mushroom pasta without cream: My recipe combines simple ingredients to create a complex flavor with mostly pantry items. Mushrooms are a main part of my dishes at least once a week. Try a hearty spinach mushroom omelette with parmesan to get your day started or creamy balsamic chicken with mushrooms for a weeknight delight. Having friends over on the weekend? Indulge them with a rich mushroom risotto and a glass of your favorite wine.
The mushrooms are the rock stars in this dish and the pasta adds the background music. That means more mushrooms by weight than pasta. After playing around with different ratios over the years, my favorite ratio came down to 2:1. In other words, use 12 oz fresh mushrooms for 6 oz of pasta. That might seem like a lot of mushrooms, but like all ingredients that consist of a high water content, most of this weight will turn into part of the sauce.
If you have a basic food pantry, all you need to get at the store are the fresh mushrooms and (at least in the middle of winter, when your herb garden is dormant) some Italian parsley.
⭐ Tip: Here in the northeast, I can still grab some fresh sage or rosemary from my herb garden in the yard. These “woody herbs” might not grow in winter but their leaves still pack a nice punch of flavor.
- Fresh mushrooms such as portobello, shiitake, etc
- Flat leaf Italian parsley (and/or fresh sage or rosemary)
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste
- White wine (or pasta waster)
- Lemon juice
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan)
- Pasta water
- Pasta of your choice
See the recipe card below for full list of ingredients and their measurements.
A good meal doesn’t require fancy kitchen equipment (with a few exceptions, of course).
A pasta pot, a saute pan, a chef's knife, a cutting board, and a cheese grater are all you need to create a delicious meal any day of the week.
🔪 Prepping the ingredients
As always, before you get started in the kitchen, read the whole recipe and all the steps involved. Make sure you have all the ingredients. Also check that you have the equipment.
Next, prepare (chop, measure, grate, etc) all the ingredients. This is called mise en place. Once you start the cooking process (starting up your burners), everything will be ready and in place for a stress free production. Now you can concentrate on the cooking process instead of running around the kitchen, looking for and prepping the ingredients.
Of course, this is not always the most proficient way to prepare a meal, but it allows you to really focus on the cooking process itself. Now you’ll have the time to observe how the ingredients change color and texture at certain temperatures and times. Taste, season a little bit, taste again.
Think of creating a painting. A touch-up here and there (think Bob Ross) and before you know it a masterpiece appears in front of you. The result will not only be a much better meal you just prepared but it will make you a much better and more confident cook.
Do yourself a favor and follow this advice for a while. You’ll gradually get into the cooking process itself rather than following step-by-step instructions in a recipe. Because of your accumulated knowledge of what cooking actually does to the food and how different flavors interact, you can start creating your own recipes.
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. Remember that day when your parents took off the training wheels and you were riding the bike all by yourself for the very first time? Yup, that’s how it’ll feel.
So let’s get started: clean the mushrooms with a vegetable brush or paper towel, remove a bit of the bottom of the stem (if it looks a bit hard), and chop into bite-size pieces.
Peel and chop shallots into small pieces. Peel, smash (with the blade of your knife), and mince the garlic. Rinse the parsley, dry on a clean kitchen towel, and roughly chop (including the tender stems). Remove the rosemary and sage leaves from their stems and finely chop (if using). Finely grate the cheese.
Once everything is ready, start by bringing a pot of salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta. There are a lot of different schools of thought regarding how much salt should be used in pasta water. I like the water to taste like the ocean (but not the Dead Sea).
It’s not that the pasta will absorb all this salt. But adding a half cup of this pasta water to the mushrooms at the end, when the pasta is nearly done, is pure liquid gold. The released starch from the pasta combined with the salty water will emulsify the sauce, which will then nicely stick to the pasta when mixed.
Next, add a tablespoon of olive oil to your saute pan and bring to medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and let them saute. They’ll brown on the edges and will release some of their liquid. Stir a couple of times. After about 4 minutes, add the butter, shallots, salt, and pepper.
After another 2 minutes or so, add the garlic, mustard, tomato paste, and the herbs and stir very well so that everything is mixed well. It might look a little dry and that’s perfectly fine.
After just another minute (you never want to overcook the garlic or your dinner might be toast), add the wine and lemon juice. Watch how the mushrooms absorb most of this liquid back in. You just fed the mushrooms with all these tasty ingredients! Taste. If you think it needs more salt, add some. But be mindful, we’ll still add the starchy pasta water and Parmesan, which will both add more salt.
⭐ Tip: An earthy, woodsy mushroom dish like this one can never have enough fresh herbs - that’s my personal opinion. When I cook someone else’s recipe, I generally double the amount of fresh herbs that the recipe calls for.
Lastly, add the grated Parmesan and the pasta water, stir, and watch how the fats from the oil and butter will emulsify (bind) with the pasta water and cheese to create an incredibly silky, creamy sauce - without using cream.
Toss with the pasta and mix everything very well. Sprinkle with some extra Italian parsley and serve immediately.
⭐ Hint: One of the easiest ways to step up your pasta game to the next level is in finishing the pasta and sauce: A minute or two before the pasta is perfectly al dente (still has a bite to it), remove ½ cup of pasta water and add to the pan with the sauce. Then, drain the pasta and add it to sauce. Mix everything very well and every piece of pasta will be coated with the delicious sauce you just created.
A general word about substitutions: If you follow a certain diet or have allergies, then you know what and what not to use in a dish. The recipe written here is the one that I created with lots of trial and error and it’s my favorite combination.
- Mushrooms - Any fresh mushrooms will work. The other day I even mixed in some ground beef with mushrooms and it worked very well.
- Shallots - You can always use instead of shallots. I’m just a huge fan of shallots and my thinking is to use shallots instead of onions.
- Pasta - I wonder if this would work with gnocchi? If you try it, please let me know.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano - An excellent choice is Pecorino Romano, or even better, a mix of the two.
Love easy, delicious dinners? Check out more of our recipes now:
- Spinach Mushroom Omelette With Parmesan
- Creamy Balsamic Chicken With Mushrooms and Fresh Parsley
- Mushroom Risotto With Parmigiano Reggiano
- Mushroom Jerky
- Sheet Pan Dinner: Hanger Steak With Mushrooms and Carrots
- Chanterelles: How To Find and Cook These Delicious Mushrooms
- Drying Porcini Mushrooms - and other magical mushroom techniques
- Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon Recipe, Simplified
- Scaloppine al Limone
- Roasted Tomato and White Bean Stew
- Rigatoni al Forno
Did you make this Creamy Mushroom Pasta? Let us know in the comments below!
Creamy Mushroom Pasta - Without Cream!
- 6 ounces pasta of your choice
- 12 ounces fresh mushrooms of your choice (portobello, cremini, shiitake), chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup fresh herbs, such as parsley, sage, rosemary
- ½ cup white wine (or pasta water)*
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup pasta water
- 2 ounces (½ cup) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or more to taste
- Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a rolling boil for the pasta.
- Next, add a tablespoon of olive oil to your saute pan and bring to medium heat.
- Add the chopped mushrooms and let them saute. They’ll brown on the edges and will release some of their liquid. Stir a couple of times and cook for about 4 minutes.
- Next, add the butter, shallots, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, mustard, tomato paste, and the herbs and stir very well so that everything is mixed well.
- After just another minute (you never want to overcook the garlic or your dinner might be toast), add the wine and lemon juice.
- Taste. If you think it needs more salt, add some. But be mindful, we’ll still add the starchy pasta water and Parmesan, which will both add more salt.
- Lastly, add the grated Parmesan and the pasta water and stir.
- Toss with the pasta and mix everything very well.
- Sprinkle with some extra Italian parsley and serve immediately.