The morels are here. Not the dried ones, good though they are, but the fresh mushrooms, dark and nubbly Black Morels like little damp pine cones, foraged from the woods of Washington. When they arrive at the market, it is time to seize the moment, to work from ingredients to recipe, and not the other way around.
Morels have such an intense, earthy, mushroomy taste that they demand star billing. They are frankly wasted in a supporting role. You really can’t go wrong just slicing, sautéing in butter, and serving them with a hunk of French bread. But I think that a bit of cream really releases the full on, hit-you-between-the-eyes scent and flavor of the morels.
This recipe came together spontaneously after a fortuitous trip to the market. At each step in cooking process, the intensity of the aroma steps up a notch—as the mushrooms hit the sauté pan, and again with each reduction. It is as much an olfactory experience as gustatory. The silky cream sauce coats the pasta and every bite is infused with the depth and complexity of the morels.
This makes an excellent main dish with a salad on the side, or a side dish that will complement freshly grilled fish or chicken.
Any good-quality pasta in a shape that holds sauce well will work for this recipe, but I have a deep and abiding fondness for the “little ears”.
Orecchiette with Morel Cream Sauce and Peas
- 8 oz Orecchiette or other small pasta
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 1 oz fresh morels, diced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp finely minced shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Parmigiano reggiano cheese, shredded
Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta.
Meanwhile, for sauce: Clean and dice morels. In a 1-quart saucepan, add the olive oil and butter and saute the diced morels, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper over medium-high heat for about 1 minute. Add the broth and cook until reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook gently until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Toss with pasta and peas. Top with plentiful amounts of parmigiano reggiano.