This mushroom pasta recipe is all about the creamy sauce and just letting the ’shrooms do their big savory umami thing. For the most robust flavor, use a variety of mushrooms like feathery maitakes, meaty oyster mushrooms, and woodsy shiitakes. Crimini mushrooms (a.k.a. baby bellas) or even larger portobello mushrooms can stand in too, though they can be a bit one-note. Their less-mature siblings, white button mushrooms, simply won’t deliver the intensity of flavor you’re looking for here.
Searing the mushrooms over medium-high heat intensifies their flavor, so don’t rush this step. Make sure the pieces have space to breathe in the pan, allowing the steam to cook off and those crispy brown bits to develop; waiting to salt them until you remove them from the pan also helps.
Be sure to pull the pasta from the (very well-salted) boiling water when it’s still slightly undercooked—it’ll finish cooking in the creamy mushroom sauce. And remember to set aside some of the pasta cooking water, which is the key to bringing that sauce together.
Garnish the dish with red pepper flakes and extra Parmesan cheese if you like, and serve with a big salad.