Fennel Spiced Ham and Mushroom Pasta

An easy pasta dish with leftover ham, mushroom, greens and spices. mjskitchen.com @MJsKitchen

 

Let’s talk pasta….About once every two weeks I’ll make a pasta dish.  At times it’s my fallback dish Capellini with Lemon, Garlic and an Egg (quick, easy and delicious), but most of the time I just throw a pasta together using a “little bit of this and little bit of that” from the fridge and pantry.  This fennel spiced pasta with ham and mushrooms was the result of last week’s throw together.

When I made it, I didn’t measure anything because I wasn’t expecting to post it.  However, since it turned out SO good, I thought I would post it as a lead in to how to make a delicious pasta dish without a recipe, using what you have and needs to be used.

All it really takes for a great pasta meal is a little of two to three different types of vegetables, a bit of meat if you want, and some oil and seasoning.  Voila – dinner’s served!  For example, the ham used in this dish was what I cut off the Easter ham bone.  I used up the little bit of cream that I had left in the fridge and a couple of Swiss chard leaves left in the crisper that didn’t get used in another dish.  I had a ton of mushrooms from a Costco run, so those were a no brainer.

For my method of how to make a great pasta when “there’s nothing in the fridge”, please check out the Kitchen Notes at the end of this post.

 

An easy pasta dish with leftover ham, mushroom, greens and spices. mjskitchen.com @MJsKitchen

 

An easy pasta dish with leftover ham, mushroom, greens and spices. mjskitchen.com @MJsKitchen

 

Kitchen Notes

Things that I consider when creating a pasta dish for Bobby and me. 

Amount of pasta – For the 2 of us, 8 ounces of pasta provides a nice dinner and enough leftovers for a lighter lunch.

Type of pasta – The more delicate the ingredients or the smaller the pieces, the lighter the pasta used.  For example, for this dish and the Leek Confit and Mushroom dish, I used linquine.  However, I could have also used spaghetti or even farfalle.  Penne or ziti would have been too heavy (in my opinion).  I usually save heavy tubular pasta for meat sauces or chunks of meat and vegetables, like my Thia Chicken and Vegetables.

Vegetables – Of course most every pasta dish I make starts with garlic and onion sauteed in olive oil. After that I look for one, two or even three more vegetables that will provide color and texture.  Mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, peas, artichoke hearts, and red/yellow/orange bell peppers are great veggies for pasta. If I have some chard, kale or spinach, I’ll thrown in a few leaves for flavor, a little green, and vitamins.

Proteins – For vegetarian dishes, the proteins I usually ch0ose are cheese, a touch of cream or a sunny-side up egg, letting the yolk become part of the sauce.  A sausage (sliced or crumbled), leftover chicken or steak, and shrimp or smoked salmon make great proteins for a variety of pasta dishes.  It doesn’t take much. Usually 1 sausage link, 1 to 2 cups chopped meat or 1/2 pound of seafood is all the two of us need.

Sauces – I like to keep my sauces simple.  Sometimes it’s just olive oil with a few tablespoons of water reserved from the cooked pasta.  Other times I might add a little butter, cream, or a touch of Dijon mustard.  Cutting up a fresh tomato and adding it near the end of the cooking time can also create a little sauce for you.  I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of tomato-based sauces and rarely make them.  About once a year I’ll make a bolognese, our favorite of all tomato-based sauces, but other than that, we prefer the lighter, oil and cream type sauces.

Seasonings – This is where you can really get creative and have fun. There are SO many herbs and spices to choose from.  Sometimes I’ll just stand over the skillet with an open jar of seasoning using my nose to determine how that herb or spice would work with what’s cooking in the skillet.  For the recipe in this post, once I got a whiff of the mushrooms and ham sauteing in the oil and butter, I decided to complement those flavors with a little crushed fennel and mustard powder rather than using any herbs. However, some fresh parsley or basil thrown in at the end makes a great finish for just about any pasta dish.

Other ingredients – Here are a few other ingredients that can add a lot of flavor with just a small amount.

  • preserved lemons and preserved lemon juice
  • olives or olive brine
  • capers or caper brine
  • pickled peppers
  • chile peppers – pickled or roasted
  • toasted seeds or nuts
  • seasoned sea salts
  • drizzle of an infused oil

So do you have a new pasta dish in mind?  What are you thinking?

What are your favorite ingredients to add to pasta?

For other pasta dishes created using the same method as this Ham and Mushroom Pasta, check out my Pasta Category.

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45 Responses to “Fennel Spiced Ham and Mushroom Pasta”

  1. Joanne/WineLadyCooks June 1, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    We love pasta with lots veggies and a protein. I like your recipe with the fennel and ham, I’ll have to give it a try. Just came from YBR at Spicie Foodie.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe,
    Joanne

    • mj June 2, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

      Joanne, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! I hope you do give this a try. It’s really good.

  2. Nami | Just One Cookbook May 18, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    You always write very thorough posts! I especially love today’s note section. A lot of people need tips or tricks like that to realize something that they didn’t learn or don’t know. It helps tremendously for cooking the rest of life. I love your pasta. I’ve never combined mustard powder, fennel seeds, and half and half. I’m going to give this pasta sauce! Looking forward to it!

    • mj May 19, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

      Thanks so much Nami for your comments! Some times I think I might be going overboard in the Kitchen Notes, but with all the years of experience in the kitchen, it’s just hard to stop at times. :) I actually use mustard powder quite a bit. It adds a little “bite” without the spice.

  3. Asmita May 12, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    This is such a satisfying and comforting meal. Absolutely gorgeous!!

  4. Dedy@Dentist Chef May 11, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Simply comforting pasta!!!
    looks delicious….

  5. Roz May 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    This is my kind of pasta dish. I like it when it is at it’s simplest . . . no need to overdo pasta. Love the added egg and pecorino! Your photos are honestly perfect too!

  6. Bill May 10, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    What a great recipe, MJ! I never think of putting ham with pasta and it’s a stroke of genius! Sometimes these “thrown together” meals end up being the best ones. This one looks delicious!

  7. Carol at Wild Goose Tea May 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Geez you sound like me. I generally don’t use a recipe, when I am quick putting something together for dinner for just me. Then of course I have no idea how I did it. I had Italian boyfriend back when the world was flat—albeit we are still in touch. Most Sundays we would go to his Mama’s house. She had some kind of spaghetti in a big pot for anyone who dropped in. It was always a bit different. It was always delicious. But some Sundays my friend would say, Ma this is special. Make it this way next week. Well yay—-right. But she would nod her head slightly and he was satisfied with that. Of course the next week it was different—as usual. See what a nice memory you brought back to me. AND a very nice recipe. Life is good.

    • mj May 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm #

      It is amazing how many memories can be spurred with food and food stories. :) My husband uses to tease me about never being able to repeat a dish exactly, that is until I started my blog and began measuring things. :) Thanks for your wonderful comments!

  8. Giulietta | Alterkitchen May 9, 2014 at 1:25 am #

    Ham ansd mushroom are a great combination, together! And I love this combination in a pasta dih :)

  9. Terra May 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    I love your photos, they are so inviting to sit down, relax, and enjoy! Your addition of fennel sounds wonderful! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  10. Karen (Back Road Journal) May 8, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Your pasta dish sounds so good…I like that you added fennel seeds. I think this is so typical of every home cook. Using the little bits of what we have in the refrigerator to create a new meal and yours turned out great.

  11. ray May 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    That is a quality of being a good cook — not relying on measurements of ingredients. Just go with your cook instinct. If only we are not sharing recipes with our friends and readers, that’s how I would cook. Whenever I cater, I don’t measure ingredients with the exception of marinades. That is a simple but delicious pasta plate my friend. Hey I hope you and Bobby are having a good week. :)

    • mj May 13, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      What a nice comment Ray! My mother never measured a thing (except in baking), so I guess we cook the way we learn. :) I never started measuring until I started my blog and sometimes even then, I have to make something several times to get all of the right measurements. :)

  12. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles May 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    Your cover photo is exquisite MJ – the lighting is so captivating (and so is that refreshing glass of wine — at least I’m imagining it as a glass of wine – perhaps a crisp chardonnay ;-) ). There is nothing in this recipe that I don’t love and I’m so glad you posted it. Sometimes the ones we never expect to make it to the blog are the ones we end up enjoying the most. It’s noon on the dot here and if I could, I would order your gorgeous pasta for lunch (on the double!) :).

    • mj May 13, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

      Thanks Kelly! Oh yes – it is a glass of wine, but I have to admit it was some I had on the counter to be used for cooking. It had gone flat. :) After the shot, I poured it back in the bottle and used it to deglaze a pan the next evening. He He.

      • Kelly @ Inspired Edibles May 15, 2014 at 8:26 am #

        that’s so funny, I’ve actually had to use apple juice in the past for wine in food photography :) — you do what you gotta do!

  13. Raymund May 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    I usually make free style pasta as well, looking at all of those unused stuff on the fridge and the results will definitely surprise you.

  14. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz May 6, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    It is amazing what one can create with cleaning the fridge for a pasta dish. So glad this one was such a success. I do like fennel and similar flavors. Looks so delicious.

  15. Angie (@angiesrecipess) May 6, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Fennel spiced ham sounds really interesting and delicious and those clicks are simply mouthwatering, MJ.

  16. Katerina May 6, 2014 at 1:47 am #

    Although pasta is a simple dish I think it can offer the biggest pleasure. I love how you turned a simple pasta dish into an elegant and flavorful meal!

  17. swathi May 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Pasta is always a humble dish add some veggie it become more delicious.

  18. Zsuzsa May 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    I am not a fennel fan, anise tastes like the cough syrup my mom used shovel into us, hehe but I am almost, almost tempted to try this – pasta makes things all right and your photos are so tempting Peach lady. Could I have a taste?

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks Zsuzsa! Oh I can certainly understand your aversion to fennel if you relate it to cough syrup. I’d probably have a hard time with it as well. :)

  19. Sissi May 5, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    MJ, how did you guess I have been going through a “fennel stage” in my life? I became crazy for anise seed a long time ago and now it’s fennel, both seeds and fresh one. I have never thought of seasoning pasta with fennel seeds, but it sounds like an excellent idea and definitely looks fabulous. THank you for all the useful tips. I used to make pasta dishes many years ago before I became a rice addict. I also made pasta with whatever I found in the fridge and sometimes the results were so surprisingly good. Now fried rice has replaces quick pasta plate, but you have encouraged me to turn to pasta more often.

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      thanks Sissi! That is absolutely nothing wrong with fried rice dishes, that’s for sure. I make them all of the time when I have leftover rice. Love them! I remember your use of anise seed which is something I don’t use much, if all. Since I grown fennel, I always have fennel seed. :)

  20. Sanjeeta kk May 5, 2014 at 4:55 am #

    You said it right, MJ..all it takes for a great Pasta is different types of vegetables, some oil and seasoning. Pasta is my savior meal whenever children want something special for dinner and I am in no mood to cook a lavish spread.

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

      Thanks Sanjeeta! Pasta is definitely the lazy night of cooking meal. :)

  21. Choc Chip Uru May 5, 2014 at 2:32 am #

    You make me want to enjoy mushrooms :D
    Delicious looking pasta!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  22. Minnie@thelady8home May 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    A delightful pasta dish. Fennel wins it for me. Have to try this.

  23. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef May 4, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    MJ this is such a comprehensive post about a quick and easy pasta dish from what you have on hand. You wrote it much better than I would have but we think alike. Although I have no problem with a tomato based sauce. :)

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      Thanks Maureen! It took some time to write it, but it was fun.

  24. Debra May 4, 2014 at 5:43 pm #

    What a great base recipe. I enjoyed all your notes. I noticed that my Swiss chard needs picking so I bet I am making one variation of this or another this week! So glad you found it posting worthy!

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks so much Debra! I wish I had some Swiss chard growing. Love it!

      • Debra May 7, 2014 at 8:29 am #

        Definitely a veggie that is not utilized enough! :)

  25. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen May 4, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    I can totally relate. You can literally make pasta with anything you have in the fridge and it will turn out delicious! Thanks for sharing, MJ!

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

      Thanks Peachy! Making new pasta dishes is fun, isn’t it. :)

  26. The Wimpy Vegetarian May 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Isn’t it great when you throw something together from odds and ends in the refrigerator and it turns out so GOOD? This looks so good, MJ! Fennel, I think, is so under-utilized in recipes.

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

      Thanks Susan! Oh I agree – fennel is so under-utilized, especially fennel seed. I use to grow it just for the seeds.

  27. Ramona May 4, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Love the addition of the fennel seeds. :) Looks like a hearty meal.

  28. John@Kitchen Riffs May 4, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    Lovely dish! I cook like this all the time, too. And I just happen to have Swiss chard in the garden, mushrooms in the refrigerator, ham in the freezer, and linguine in the pantry. ;-) I’ll wait a bit, though — we just had Pasta Cacio e Pepe for dinner last night. Lovely flavors — thanks.

    • mj May 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

      It’s funny that you mention Pasta Cacio e Pepe because Bobby saw the recipe a while back and made it for me on night. What an awesome pasta dish!! Of course it’s not one I can afford to eat offend with all of that butter, but it sure is good! If you get a chance to make this dish, I hope you enjoy it. Have a great week John and thanks!

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