One of my favorite restaurants in NYC is Basta Pasta, located just steps away from Union Square. It's a Japanese Italian place that serves Japanese inspired pasta dishes. They mix traditional Italian ingredients, like prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano, with shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, sea urchin (uni) and shiso. Basta Pasta combines ingredients that you wouldn't normally think would go together, but they marry the flavors beautifully.
So I came home from work one night last week, tired and hungry. I had just a few things in my fridge, but I was due for a trip to Whole Foods. So I had to come up with something good for dinner using whatever I had on hand. I had a new package of soba noodles that I had picked up at the Japanese market I like to go to near NYU, the Sunshine Mart. This little supermarket caters to the Japanese community of students and expats, as well as New Yorkers who have discovered the hidden gem filled with traditional foods and groceries from Japan. I also had some shiitake mushrooms, a zucchini and a little marinara sauce from a jar I picked up in New Jersey the last time I visited my friends Susan and John. Apparently this sauce from Hoboken Farms, was rated as one of the best and I have to say, it was pretty damn good.
Looking at this random mix of things in my pantry and fridge, I remembered Basta Pasta and realized that I could make my own Japanese inspired pasta. I sliced up the shiitakes and julienned the zucchini so they would cook evenly together.
I first heated up a tablespoon of olive oil in a stainless-steel pan. Then I added the shiitakes and sauted until they started to turn brown. Then I added the salt and pepper. If you season too early, like when the mushrooms are first added to the pan, they won't brown as nicely. Instead the salt will draw out the water in the mushrooms and they will boil instead of browning.
At the same time, I boiled a pot of water and added the soba when it was ready. Cook according to the directions on the package, although I admit that my package was in Japanese so I had to wing it. 5 to 6 minutes ended up being just right.
Next add the zucchini to the shiitakes and mix thoroughly, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season a little more with salt and pepper and add your choice of marinara sauce. It can be homemade or from a jar. Just whatever you have on hand. You could even add fresh chopped tomatoes, but that will add a few extra minutes to your cooking time.
Drain the soba noodles and add it directly into the pan, don't rinse the noodles. Mix everything together and plate it up. I didn't know what to expect since it was spontaneous but I really liked it. The earthiness of the shiitakes provided a nice constrast with the fresh zucchini. The soba noodles, made with buckwheat flour, were toothsome and hearty enough to stand up to the sauce. It was a perfect alternative to whole wheat pasta which I can get tired of sometimes. Anyway, if you try this dish let me know if you like it! Domo arigato!