Japanese-style Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms

Japanese-style Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

I wasn’t sure at first why my Japanese friends kept taking me for Italian food at chain restaurants like Saizeriya or Capricciosa, or one of the many Italian style cafes dotting Tokyo.  I just assumed they wanted to play it safe and bring me somewhere I would be familiar with the flavors.  When I suggested more local restaurants, they would oblige, but soon they stopped asking and we would just end up in front of an Italian restaurant at dinner time.  They would smile, hold the door for me, and wave me in with an enthusiastic “Dozo” (please go ahead).  I would bow my head slightly, and then embarrassingly say at the wrong time, “Itadakimasu” (Let’s eat).

It didn’t take long after for me to realize that I was having the exact opposite effect than what I initially thought.  Take me out of the picture, and they were eating more Italian food!

Japanese-style Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms by SeasonWithSpice.com
Japanese Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com

Japanese love their Italian food.  Luckily the portion sizes for Italian food are smaller in Japan, because afterwards, we would inevitably end up at an Izakaya – a casual style bar in Japan where everyone is drinking beer and munching on all sorts of snacks from tempura to ramen to yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).

This recipe for Japanese Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms is a mash up of Italian & Japanese cuisines, and would fit right in on the menu at either at an Izakaya or a Japanese-style Italian restaurant.  It’s a simplified version of a recipe from Mark Robinson’s Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook.

shiitake mushrooms
japanese shimeji mushrooms

This vegetarian, Japanese pasta – light on the sauce and heavy on the mushrooms – is a great change up to the traditional tomato or cream based pastas.  The sauce is a flavorful combination of sake, soy sauce, and mirin, and spiced with our Spicy Japanese Seven Spice.

I omitted the clams from the original recipe, and added in extra mushrooms – lots of shiitake & shimeji.  If you have them, throw in some enoki, oyster, or wild mushrooms too.

Japanese-style Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms by SeasonWithSpice.com

Try this Japanese Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms for a quick weeknight meal. And of course enjoy it with a can of cold Sapporo.

Japanese Pasta by SeasonWithSpice.com

Japanese Pasta with Shiitake Mushrooms 
Serves 4

1 lb dried spaghetti or linguini
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves – minced
12-14 oz mixed mushrooms (I used a mix of shiitake & shimeji)
2 tbsp sake
1/4 cup soy sauce, or tamari
1 tbsp mirin
2 scallions – finely sliced
Dashes of Season With Spice’s Shichimi Togarashi (Spicy Japanese Seven Spice) 

1. Cook pasta per package instructions (just until al dente). Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta, transfer to a bowl, and toss with some olive oil. Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or skillet, heat olive oil & butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant – about one minute. Add in the shiitake mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add in the shimeiji mushrooms and continue to cook until caramelized – another 3-4 minutes. Add in the sake, and cook for another minute.
3. Add in the cooked pasta along with 1/4 cup of pasta water. Season with soy sauce and mirin, and toss pasta to coat well. If you find the pasta a little dry, you can add in one or two more tablespoons of pasta water.
4. Dish out into individual plates. Top with scallions and Shichimi Togarashi.