In this lovely and seasonal dish, rich, earthy sautéed morel mushrooms are tossed with bright green peas, al dente pasta, and Parmesan cheese. The simplicity of this dish allows the unique umami flavor of the morel mushrooms to mingle with the subtle sweetness of the peas and nuttiness of the Parmesan to create an easy and delicious lunch or dinner.
I adapted this recipe from one I found on the New York Times cooking website. This time I used frozen peas instead of fresh (though I prefer fresh peas when I can find them, which should be very soon!), and fusilli pasta, but mainly stayed true to the recipe. It is such an easy and simple way to use morel mushrooms, and a great way to stretch a rather small amount of them into a meal, as they are not easy to find in the wild, and expensive to buy. If you cannot find these gems, you can also substitute other earthy mushrooms, such as shitake or crimini.
It was an exciting moment a couple of days ago when I finally found some morels under the oak tress, among the grass and leaves in our yard. I found some last year in about the same place, and had been searching for a couple of weeks this year when I finally discovered them. There were not very many, but enough to make this lovely pasta dish. Morel mushrooms are definitely unique-looking objects. Their many crevices and their hollow stems make them look to me like they are very ancient, like they are from a fairy world.
Morel mushrooms are very expensive to buy, so I feel privileged that they grow wild in my yard. As with any wild mushroom, we need to be very careful that we know for sure that we are eating the right type of mushroom, so if you find any mushrooms you think might be edible, check with someone who knows a lot about wild mushrooms before you eat them. There is something really special about finding these treasures, and I have to say I really enjoy tromping around outside looking for them. It is raining like crazy right now, so maybe more morels are growing as I write this!
There is such an almost cult-like love of these mushrooms, and such folklore surrounding them, that I am just beginning to scratch the surface of this fascinating pastime of morel-hunting. I think some of the appeal has to do with the feeling of being intimately connected to the earth and to the seasons when we hunt, cook, and eat these mushrooms. In a world where it is easy to feel isolated and disconnected from others and from our heritage and our environment, being out in the woods foraging for food brings us back into communion with these important things. These words from the poem “Morels” by William Jay Smith capture the feeling for me:
“Tasting of the sweet damp woods and of the rain one inch
— — above the meadow:
It was like feasting upon air.”
I hope you all have a great weekend! If you celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope you have a wonderful day, and Happy Spring! The lilacs in our yard are just starting to bloom, and I can hardly wait to pick some to put in every room of the house.
I am taking a bowl of this delicious spring pasta with morels and peas over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau. It is such an easy recipe to throw together, and with the fresh, beautiful flavors of the mushrooms, peas, and Parmesan, the meal can showcase these spring vegetables without overpowering them.
Spring Pasta With Morels and Peas
- 8 ounces of pasta, any type
- about 1/4 pound of morel mushrooms (about 8 medium-sized mushrooms), cleaned and sliced length-wise (If you can’t find morel mushrooms, other earthy mushrooms like crimini or shitake can be used)
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup of peas, fresh and shelled, or frozen
- 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
- black pepper to taste
Soak your morel mushrooms in cool water for a few minutes to release any dirt from them. Lay them on paper towels to dry, and then slice them in half length-wise. If you have very large mushrooms, cut them in half width-wise as well.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook your pasta according to package directions. After about 8 minutes of cooking, take out some of the pasta water and set it aside.
While the pasta is cooking, in a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Sautee the mushrooms in the melted butter, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their juices and become soft. Remove the skillet from the heat.
If your peas are fresh, in a small pan of boiling water, blanch them briefly and then drain them and place them in cold water to stop the cooking. If they are frozen, place them in with the pasta for the last minute of boiling.
Drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Add the peas, mushrooms (along with the melted butter in the skillet), and Parmesan cheese. Toss gently to combine everything. Add some of the pasta water (till the mixture has the consistency you want) and a touch more butter and toss again. Top with ground black pepper to taste. Serve warm. Enjoy!