(Original Post Date: April 22, 2010)
A few days ago, my friend Christina introduced me to the Cheesecake Factory’s Pasta Da Vinci. I can’t believe I’ve never tried it before! If you’ve been to the Cheesecake Factory, you know how long and overwhelming their menu is – so I guess that explains why I’ve always overlooked it when browsing the pages and pages of their menu.
This time, I ordered the Pasta Da Vinci (without onions, of course, as I’ve never been a huge fan of onions in pasta). It was soooooooo good! I immediately wanted it again, but the nearest Cheesecake Factory is a 45 minute drive, and I didn’t think I could convince my husband to go there on a weeknight. Sigh.
So this craving led to an internet search for a copycat recipe. I found two recipes that looked promising: this one, which called for heavy cream and button mushrooms, and this one, which called for even more heavy cream AND sour cream, and the use of canned or dehydrated mushrooms. Remembering back, I am quite certain that no button mushrooms were in my plate of pasta, nor were there any canned or re-hydrated mushrooms. I’m pretty sure that the Cheesecake Factory uses fresh shitake mushrooms. Also, while I wanted a creamy texture, all the extra heavy cream and sour cream just seemed like overkill – the dish just didn’t seem quite that “heavy” to me.
In the end, I used the two copycat recipes as a starting point, but made some changes to make the pasta more similar to what I remembered:
Mika’s version of Pasta Da Vinci:
- 2 cups penne pasta, uncooked
- 5 chicken tenders
- 1 1/2 c. shitake mushrooms (3.5 oz)
- 1/4 c. chopped red onions (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 T. canola oil
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 c. Madeira wine
- 2 T. unsalted butter
- 1 T. flour
- 1/2 c. half and half
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 T. parsley
- 3 T. grated parmesan cheese
1. Slice 3.5 oz of shitake mushrooms (approximately 1 1/2 cups), discarding stems.
2. Slice the chicken tenders into bite sized pieces, discarding any tendons or cartilage.
3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add the 2 c. uncooked penne pasta, and set timer to 9 minutes. When done, drain the pasta and set aside.
4. Add 1/2 T. olive oil and 1/2 T. canola oil to a large cast iron skillet, and heat on medium high. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. (If you choose to add onions, you could add 1/4 c. chopped red onions at this point.) Saute the mushrooms until golden brown, then remove from the pan and set aside.
5. Add the remaining oil to the pan, and add the chicken. Season chicken with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Saute until golden brown, then set aside with the cooked mushrooms.
6. Add the butter to the pan, and allow to melt. Meanwhile, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. (The brown bits that you are now scraping up will help flavor the sauce.)
7. Add the flour to the butter, cook and stir for 1 minute to create a roux. (This will help thicken the sauce for the pasta).
8. Turn off the heat. Add the half and half and the Madeira. Once the sizzling has subsided, turn the stove back on and heat to a gentle simmer. You must cook this for several minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate and to allow the flavor of the sauce to develop.
9. After 2-3 minutes, taste the sauce, and if it seems too strong, add 1/4 c. water. Add a little extra salt and pepper if needed. Add the mushrooms and chicken back into the pan with the garlic, and simmer 1-2 more minutes.
10. Add the pasta into the pan, and stir. Allow the pasta to heat for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and stir in the parsley and parmesan.
This made about 3 dinner sized servings – perfect as a dinner for two – and lunch for one the next day.