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Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms, Sweet Peppers, and Fontina Cheese

Mary Anne here. Hellooo autumn! Well, maybe I’m jumping the gun since the temp today was a humid 82, but the promise of the the season does put a glow in my heart. It’s the best of all weather, as the fading summer sun provides golden warmth during the day only to be replaced by cool, crackly breezes at night. Perfect sleeping weather! And as much as I adore summer (maybe because I’m a July bambino!), the fall is secretly my most favorite time of the year.

Autumn is when wild mushrooms hit their seasonal prime and begin turning up in the marketplace. And while they’re often far too pricey to indulge in for a Feast on the Cheap, this week my local green grocer had a sale on Baby Bellas and fresh Shitakes. These earthy morels were just begging to be planted atop a steaming bowl of pasta. As luck would have it, I had a large wedge of Fontina cheese in the recesses of my deli drawer, which was the perfect foil for woodsy mushrooms and al dente penne. I added sage – a favorite of mine in the herb department – while bright yellow and red peppers provided a splendid splash of autumnal color. I think some chunks of roasted acorn squash would go well, but sadly that didn’t occur to me until this very moment. That’ll have to wait ’til next time.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Mushrooms, Sweet Peppers, and Fontina Cheese
Serves 6

2 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
1 large Vidalia onion (about 1 lb.), sliced ¼ inch thick crosswise and then the rings cut into thirds – $0.94
1 clove garlic, minced – stock
1 lb. mushrooms ( I used Baby Bellas and stemmed, fresh Shitake) – $5.00
2 large sweet Bell peppers, either red, yellow, or orange or a combination, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch thick strips – $2.33
1 lb. whole wheat penne or rigatoni, cooked according to package directions – $1.69
1 Tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped – $0.99
2 cups (about 7 oz.) Fontina cheese, grated and divided – $5.29
salt and pepper to taste
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $16.24
Total Per Serving: $2.71

1. Over medium-high flame, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the sliced onions and stirring frequently, cook until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.

2. Add the garlic to the onions and continue sautéing an additional 3 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms and sweet pepper slices. Sauté until the mushrooms and peppers are soft, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, as the vegetables are cooking, cook the pasta, according to package directions, until al dente.

5. Spoon 1 cup of the pasta water into a measuring cup and set aside. Drain the pasta.

6. Add the reserved pasta water to the mushroom, pepper, and onion mixture. Stir in the fresh sage. Cook over medium-high flame for a minute or two. Toss in the drained pasta. Add 1½ cups of the Fontina, salt, and pepper, tossing well. The cheese will melt.

7. Transfer to a large serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Mangia!