Recipe: Morel Mushroom Alfredo Pasta
One of my favorite things to do in the springtime is forage for fresh morel mushrooms. If you have never heard of a morel mushroom, you are missing out! They grow wild in the woods during the Spring in many states in the US, and they are one of the most sought-after fresh mushroom species for one very good reason- they are absolutely delicious. I am located in Nebraska and our season has already kicked off, but for local readers in Minnesota, your morel mushroom season is still coming up so you have time to read up and plan!
I am a somewhat new mushroom forager (this is my third season), but I feel that I must give this disclaimer: Mushroom hunting is not to be taken lightly, especially if you are planning on consuming the mushrooms. There are species that are toxic and some that can kill you very quickly if consumed. The number one rule of mushroom hunting is that if you are at all in doubt of what kind of mushroom you have found, do not eat it. With that said, morel mushrooms are a pretty easy mushroom to hunt as a beginner because morels are extremely unique looking.
Morels do have one toxic “look-alike” mushroom, commonly referred to as False Morels. The way to tell the difference between the false morel and the true morel is that when you slice the mushroom in half, the true morel is hollow while the false morel is not. If you do not have any interest in hunting for mushrooms yourself, start checking local farmers markets in the spring, as well as craigslist. But fair warning- morel mushrooms can sell for as high as $30 or more a pound.
Similar to fresh walleye, if you ask anyone how they like to cook morel mushrooms they will without a doubt tell you they like to batter it and fry it. Morels are actually commonly fried in butter instead of oil. It makes a delicious appetizer, but in my opinion the batter and butter actually mask the wonderful morel flavor and is totally unnecessary. When we find morel mushrooms we fry a few, but then I use them in various dishes that make the morel mushroom the star of the show. This recipe is for a heavy, creamy pasta- I would not recommend this for a pre-race meal, but rather just for a nice, non-running related indulgence.
Morel Mushroom Alfredo Pasta
Time: 30 minutes if using boxed pasta, 1 hour if making homemade pasta
30-40 medium fresh morel mushrooms, sliced in half vertically and cleaned**
1 stick unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp flour
2 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2-3 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups shredded parmesan, plus more for topping
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
1 lb. pasta- homemade is preferred, but if you don’t have the time go ahead and used boxed pasta
**Note: Cleaning morel mushrooms is an incredibly important step and is easy to do. Most people soak the mushrooms in salt water for at least 30 minutes but read up on what your preferred method is.
- Start a pot of water boiling to cook the pasta.
- Melt ½ stick of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, add the morel mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and started to absorb the butter. This really depends on the size of the mushrooms, but it took me about 12 minutes or so. You want the mushrooms to start to get a nice golden brown color.
- Add the garlic and shallots and saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the additional ½ stick butter, as a lot of the butter should have been absorbed into the mushrooms.
- Add the 3 tbsp. of flour and saute, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes, or until the roux (the flour and butter mixture) turns a little brown and is fragrant.
- Drop your pasta into the boiling water if you are using dried pasta from a box. If you are using fresh pasta the boiling only takes a minute or two so you can wait until after the sauce is done to drop the pasta.
- Lower heat to medium-low and add the milk 1 cup at a time, mixing it in completely between each cup and letting the mixture thicken while you stir for 1-2 minutes. You may not need the full 3 cups; you may want the sauce a little thicker or looser depending on personal preference. I ended up using about 2 cups.
- Add the salt, pepper, thyme, and parmesan and mix until the cheese is fully incorporated. Taste the sauce for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as needed.
- Turn the heat off, and add the pasta to the sauce and toss until it is fully coated. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!