Memorial Day means fresh ingredients. Finally. After a long winter and slow-moving spring, it’s such a joy to be able to walk to the farmer’s market and fill my canvas bag with locally grown ingredients. Somehow food just seems to taste better that way.
To clarify, I’m not arguing that produce from the grocery store isn’t fresh, I’m just saying there’s something special about buying your produce from a the person who picked it.
In this instance I’m referring to the wild mushrooms I bought at the Green City Market, two morels and a few bunches of oysters to be exact. And while I love buying local, it can sometimes come with a hefty price tag, as in $5 for two morels.
Such valuable loot deserves to be showcased and celebrated, not overpowered by strong ingredients. And what better way to showcase my prized morels than to pair them with fresh pasta, one of my all-time favorite foods and a true labor of love (here’s the video tutorial and recipe for fresh pasta).
In this instance I made a very light sauce by sauteing shallots, garlic and sliced wild mushrooms (note: don’t mince the mushrooms; you’ll want to leave some texture intact) in butter. I then added frozen sweet peas (yes, I said frozen and I’m fine with that) for a bit of sweetness and relied on lemon zest, lemon juice and fresh parsley to balance out the flavors.
Wow, was it good! The smell alone was enough to have me salivating, but the taste was out of this world. The delicate pasta, subtle lemon-butter sauce, and the sweetness of the shallots and peas synchronistically combined to enhance the earthiness of the mushrooms, the star ingredient.
And best of all it took less than ten minutes to make the sauce and cook the pasta. Talk about a winner in all categories!
Wild Mushroom & Sweet Pea Pasta (theoretically serves 4)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 morel mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup sliced oyster mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 pound fresh or dried fettuccine noodles (see recipe for fresh pasta)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Set a large pot of heavily salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. This will be the cooking water for the pasta.
Make the sauce while waiting for the water to boil. Begin by melting the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Once the butter has melted stir in the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
Decrease the heat the low and stir in the peas (don’t worry about thawing if using frozen). Stir in the salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and parsley. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
By now the water for the pasta should have come to a boil. Add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes if using fresh, or follow package instructions for dried. Once the noodles have been cooked to “al dente” use tongs to lift them from the pot of water and place them in the pan with the vegetables. Do not discard the cooking water yet and don’t worry about draining the noodles well.
Return the sauce pan to the burner set to medium-low. Toss the pasta with the other ingredients and add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water as needed to thin out the sauce. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.
To serve, divide the noodles and vegetables between four (or two) plates and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese.