There’s a “cheap eats” type of Italian restaurant up the street from us. M and I used to frequent it, not just because the food was good and cheap, but because the chef was probably one of the nicest, most enthusiastic business people we had ever had the pleasure of working with. You wanted his restaurant to succeed. You wanted him to succeed. We regularly showed up with large groups of people — Italian is always a crowd pleaser and Joe would go out of his way to accommodate us. Sadly, while M and I were on our honeymoon, we learned that Joe had left the restaurant. We had just been there a week before with our families two days before our wedding. We were crushed. The restaurant remained, under new management, and we avoided it. It wasn’t “Joe’s Place” anymore. Last week we finally bit the bullet and decided it was time to go back. It wasn’t the same. Sure, the prices were still reasonable, but the service was awful. The food was ok, (M enjoyed his dish, I did not) and the appetizers had expanded. One of my only complaints when it was “Joe’s” was that the appetizer list was lacking. We decided to give the new stuffed mushrooms a go. It was good — although not at all what we expected. One giant portobello cap, stuffed with meat, cheese and sauce. It wasn’t great, wasn’t bad. In fact, I had forgotten all about it until I served dinner last night. As soon as it hit the table, M commented that this looked just like the mushroom we had had the other night at “Joe’s.” It was. I had accidentally recreated the dish (and renamed it to Portobello Mushroom Pizza), although I think mine had a little more flavor to it.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush four portobello mushroom caps with olive oil and roast 15 minutes, cap side up.
While the mushrooms roast, brown 1/2 ground beef.
Once browned, drain off any fat and add in a handful of frozen spinach. Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and red pepper.
Add in 1 cup of good quality tomato sauce. Cook until most of the liquid has reduced.
Turn the mushroom caps gill side up and pile on the meat mixture. Top with shredded cheese (here an Italian blend). Return to the oven and cook an additional 5 minutes until cheese has melted.
To serve, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and thinly sliced fresh basil.