Morel Mushrooms with Spaghetti Carbonara

Another spring favorite, morel mushrooms.  Fresh morel mushrooms are highly seasonal, expensive, and

prized for their delicate texture and fragrant aroma.  Aside from being earthy, they have almost a perfume like appeal; very unique and impossible to replicate.  Their delicate texture requires delicate handling.  They cannot be over-exposed to water, over cooked, or stored for too long (unless frozen).

Morel mushrooms lend themselves exquisitely to other ‘stronger’ ingredients.  They are a complimentary addition.  Typically you see them with the typical spring items, like fava beans, asparagus, farm eggs, and so on.  Being a mushroom and therefore earthy by nature, I love to pair these with dishes that benefit from their wonderful texture and aroma, and are not necessarily ‘spring’ dishes.  And when cooking, many times, the best method is a simple saute with butter, salt and pepper.

In this dish, I am incorporating sauteed morels into a classic spaghetti carbonara.  The richness of the pasta sauce along with the farm fresh eggs match the delicate earthiness of the morels perfectly.  And of course, if morel mushrooms are unavailable or prohibitively expensive, the recipe is great without them!

Carbonara is named as such due to the high amount of ground black pepper in the dish (resembling carbon, hence carbonara), and is derived primarily from some sort of cured pork (bacon, pancetta, hams), parmesan cheese, and fresh eggs.  I use a little cream to help start the sauce.  I think you will find this recipe easy and quite delicious.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Morel Mushrooms

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time:  25 minutes
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

1/2 lb fresh morel mushrooms, gently wiped cleans and cut into quarters.
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
2 large organic farm fresh eggs
1/2 shallot minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into small dice (place pancetta in the freezer 1/2 hour before dicing, it makes it much easier)
1 lb spaghetti, cooked until al dente, drained, tossed with olive oil and cooled
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley fine chop

Method:

Mix the two cheese and the eggs together to form a paste.  Add a liberal amount of black pepper to the paste and set aside.

In a large, heavy bottom skillet, begin slowly rendering the pancetta.  When the pancetta is crisp, remove all the pieces from the pan with a slotted spoon.  Turn heat to high and add the mushrooms, cooking quickly.  Remove again with a slotted spoon and let rest on a couple sheets of paper towel.  Add the cooked spaghetti and shallots to the remaining oil in the pan and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the cream and let reduce until slightly thick.  Season with a good amount black pepper and a dash of salt.  Add the cheese paste  and work into the sauce.  Once the sauce begins to thicken, turn heat off.  This is a quick cook and shouldn’t take much time at all. Add the pancetta, mushrooms and parsley to the pan.   Toss a few times to fully incorporate.  Check seasoning.  Using a pair of tongs, twirl the pasta into a warmed serving bowl, sprinkle a little more cracked pepper on top and serve right away.

Enjoy.

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