Macaroni con Formaggi (Taleggio), asparagi e funghi (Macaroni and Taleggio with Asparagus and Mushrooms

My Mom tells me to this day that a little can go a very long way.  With unexpected company dropping by to watch me cook, not the Superbowl, I knew I better think fast.   I like to keep Ramekins in all shapes and sizes.  With many other foods being served, I wanted to be sure and have something warm and hearty to satisfy everyone.   One pound of Pasta can feed 10 people and here is how.
What you will need:
10/ 5ounce ramekins (you want to have them deep enough for volume without boiling over)
4 oz of Taleggio cut up.  Any, soft, cheeese you like will do. 
One pound of fresh asparagus (trimmed (wood ends removed), blanched, water reserved,
 cut the tops and reserve/dice the rest into small pieces.
One pound of mixed mushrooms.  I used 8 ounces each of oyster and portabella/ sliced thin.  Cooked until reduced in 2 tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups of Bechamel (prepared in the Method of Marcella Hazan's book, "Essentials of Italian Cooking."
Optional 4 ounce dice of Prosciutto
Keep plenty of salt and pepper on hand
One cup of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (more or less)
Butter for lining your ramekins
Pinch of Nutmeg (Bechamel)
Pasta:  Large Fusilli/ One pound (look for any, large size, pasta shape that will grab the richness of the sauce).
9 quarts of water in a pasta pot  (This is a large pasta size.  The larger that you use, the more water you will need to cook your pasta.
Method:
Place your water on the stove to boil.  Add 3 tablespoons of salt to your water.  Place your lid on your pan and bring to a rolling boil.
In the meantime, prepare your Asparagus.  Blanch, cut and place in a bowl.   Be sure and reserve your water.
Next, cook your mushrooms.   Heat your oil in a skillet.  Take a large garlic clove and smash it.  When the oil is heated some, place your smashed garlic in your pan.  You just want flavor.  Do not cut your garlic into pieces as you will be discarding it.  Cook your mushrooms on medium.  Add a teaspoon of salt, pepper and keep cooking until all the liquid is reduced in your pan.  Your mushrooms will shrink.  This will take about 10 minutes or so.  Do not rush the cooking, as this will affect the overall outcome of your dish. 
Set aside to cool.
In another skillet, prepare your bechamel.   If you can not google or actually have Marcella Hazan's wonderful book, I strongly suggest you purchase one.  It's all you will ever need in the kitchen.  It is available for purchase to the right of this blog too.
  Heat your whole milk slowly.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on medium heat.   Add 3 tablespoons of flour, one at a time and mix.  You want to cook your flour, just like you were making a roux.  (If your heat is to high, you will burn your flour.  If this happens, just start over).  Keep it low and slow.   Begin to add your milk, a little at a time.  Turn off your heat.   You will notice your milk will begin to thicken and become creamy.  Continue until all your milk is combined.   Add a pinch of Nutmeg, a Teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of white pepper.  Set aside.  If the mixture is to thick, add a little more milk.   If to thin, turn your heat back on low and keep mixing.  Miracles happen and it takes practice.   I must admit, I have made plenty of mistakes.  Don't be in a rush.   Set it aside. 

Cook your pasta until firm, right before al dente.
Drain well and set aside.  Combine all the rest of your ingredients (except your Asparagus tips),  into a bowl and mix.  Add your pasta and mix again. 
Divide your pasta mixture into your bowls.  Add about a tablespoon of Asparagus water to each Ramekin.  (If you think your ramekins are two dry, add another tablespoon).
 Top with two asparagus tips each crosswise, then add some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
(At this point your can either cover them and refrigerate for the next day)
If your cooking:
Place in a Preheated, 375F degree oven for 15 minutes/covered.  Remove the foil and cook for 5 minutes more.  You want just a slight crust on top.  Serve hot/warm
It's easy, fun to make and will always please a crowd.  Remember, a little goes a long way.  (Italian Macaroni and Cheese, I am not telling).

Buon Appetito Everyone!  Enjoy!





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