If you’ve been out to eat at any trendy restaurant during the past five years or watched any food competition, you’ve heard of umami, a pleasant savory flavor resulting from the interaction of certain amino acids with receptors on the tongue.
Translation: Dishes higher in these specific amino acids taste better to us, more balanced and complex, even in low-salt dishes. Foods with umami have a meatiness or earthiness that makes them rich and satisfying. Anchovies, soy sauce, mushrooms, aged cheeses, yeasts and fermented foods all are chock-full of umami.
This mushroom-miso pasta is a tad indulgent but tastes more sinful than it actually is. Nutty browned butter underscores the mushroom’s earthy umami flavors. But it is miso that’s the real hero here, adding surprising depth to this easy weeknight dish as well as a buttery, almost creamy flavor to the sauce that brings all the flavors together.
Miso paste — mild white, medium yellow and stronger red and brown — brings richness to dishes without adding fat and calories (although it does have salt).
Adding even more umami is the nutritional yeast, an optional ingredient but one well worth seeking out.
It adds a wonderful aged-cheeselike flavor that turns this simple pasta dish into a veritable “umami bomb,” a good thing in the food world.
» 8 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
» 3 tablespoons butter
» 8 ounces chopped mixed mushrooms (such as portobello, cremini, button)
» 2 cloves garlic, minced
» 1/4 cup dry white wine
» 1 tablespoon white miso paste
» 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
» 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (or more, to taste)
» 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
» Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Bring large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil on high. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in skillet over medium, heat butter, allowing it to bubble and cook until it turns nutty brown, about 5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, as butter burns easily. Add mushrooms and garlic, then cook until mushrooms are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add wine and deglaze pan, then simmer 1 minute to cook off alcohol.
Whisk in miso and chicken stock, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add nutritional yeast and mustard if using, then stir until sauce is uniform. Season with pepper, then taste and adjust with salt as needed. Remove skillet from heat and toss with hot pasta. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 340 calories, 11 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 12 g protein