Dear Jan: The Beachcomber was happy to share its rich and creamy take on this classic comfort food, which we've adapted below. Enjoy!
The Beachcomber's spinach truffle mac
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 to 8
Note: Adapted from the Beachcomber at Crystal Cove. Cavatappi pasta is a type of tube pasta, similar to macaroni; it is available at select gourmet grocers and cooking supply stores.
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons butter, divided
8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms, about 4 cups
4 ounces baby spinach, about 4 cups
2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces shredded smoked Gouda, about 3 cups
8 ounces grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, a generous 2 cups, plus ¼ cup grated Parmigiano, divided
1/4 cup white truffle oil
1 (1-pound box) cavatappi or macaroni pasta, cooked and drained
Salt and white pepper
4 ounces (2 cups) mixed mushrooms, such as chanterelle, king, enoki, oyster and black trumpet
1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs
Parsley sprigs, for garnish
1. Heat a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add one-half cup (1 stick) of butter, swirling to melt.
2. Add the button mushrooms and sauté until lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach and continue to sauté for a minute to wilt.
3. Stir in the heavy cream, smoked Gouda, 8 ounces pecorino cheese and truffle oil, and reduce the heat slightly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
4. Toss in the pasta and heat through, stirring until the sauce is thickened and creamy. Taste and season if desired. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.
5. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Melt the remaining butter and sauté the mixed mushrooms until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
7. To plate, divide the pasta among 4 to 8 oven-proof bowls. Top the pasta with the bread crumb mixture and place the bowls under the broiler. Broil the pasta just until the topping starts to brown, about a minute, depending on the distance of the broiler.
8. Remove the bowls from the broiler and top each serving with the sauteed mushrooms and a sprig of parsley. Serve immediately.
Each of 8 servings: 912 calories; 33 grams protein; 50 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 66 grams fat; 38 grams saturated fat; 199 mg cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 893 mg sodium.