MAINS/ SEASONS/ SPRING

Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels

Hello, welcome! This dish really screams Spring. It’s the vibrant, green spring asparagus and the morels, no doubt. The simplicity of pasta tossed in olive oil with snappy asparagus and earthy morel mushrooms really speaks to me. Add a little garlic, lemon, some parmesan, red pepper flakes and black pepper, and you’ve got a simple, beautiful meal that really satisfies. Let’s get to it: Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels!

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The Morel Mushroom

Morels are hard to find fresh at a store, mostly because these mushrooms are not cultivated for commercial use. All the morels we see are harvested from the wild. This also makes them pricier than some other types of mushrooms. If farmer’s markets and/or specialty stores are not available to you, you can find dehydrated morels online. Another interesting morel fact is that you cannot/should not eat them raw. Morels contain a toxic substance that is destroyed when the mushroom is fully cooked. So just be sure you cook them before eating them!

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I have one ounce of Dried Morels that I am going to soak in hot water for 30 minutes. While the morels are soaking, I will heat my water for the pasta. Six quarts of water for 1 pound of bucatini. While that’s all going, you can prep the rest of the ingredients. Press or mince about 6 cloves of garlic, grate about 1/4 cup of Parmesan, cut the woody stems off the bunch of asparagus, then cut the asparagus into 1 to 2-inch pieces. I also have about 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper, but you can use as much or a little as you like.

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When your pot of water begins to boil, turn the heat down to low and place a lid on the pot to keep the water very hot. Strain the morels out of the soaking liquid and spread them on a couple layers of paper towel. Take another paper towel and blot the tops of the mushrooms. Use kitchen shears to cut the larger mushrooms in half. Then let them sit while we start with the asparagus.

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Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the asparagus slices to the heated pan. season with a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté the asparagus, stirring occasionally, until it turns bright green, about 1-2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium.

Add another drizzle of olive oil to the skillet and then add the morels to the pan. Increase the heat as needed to keep things lightly sizzling. I like my asparagus to remain on the snappy side so I let the mushrooms go with the asparagus for about 2 minutes. Then add the pressed or minced garlic and stir to combine. Let the garlic cook with the morels and the asparagus for about 1 minute. Season with another pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to mix, then turn the heat to low to keep the veggies cooking slowly.

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Remove the lid from the water pot and increase the heat to bring back to a boil. When it’s boiling again, add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt give the water a stir, then drop in the pasta. If you’re using bucatini, set a timer for 8 minutes. Stir the pasta occasionally to keep it from sticking. Stir the asparagus and morels every now and then.

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When the timer dings, use a measuring cup to scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Then drain the pasta and add it back to the pot. turn the burner to medium-low and add back in about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid.

Vigorously stir the pasta in the cooking liquid. Then, sprinkle on the 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and vigorously stir the pasta with the cheese, add another 1/4 cup of the pasta liquid and keep stirring. There should be a lightly creamy texture developing.

Add the crushed red peppers and vigorously stir again. Add more pasta liquid to keep everything lubricated. Then add the morels and asparagus to the pasta. Stir well to incorporate the veggies in the pasta. Then turn off the heat. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and stir again.

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Ready to Plate the Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels!

Grab yourself a wide shallow bowl and use kitchen tongs to grab a serving of Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels. Hold the pasta above the bowl and use your free hand to turn the bowl clockwise as you slowly lower the pasta into the bowl. Release the tongs and you’ve got a restaurant-worthy plating of pasta and veggies!

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Drizzle a little olive oil over the Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels. Sprinkle with flaky finishing salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

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Grate a bit more Parmesan cheese on top, if you like.

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I am a big fan of all kinds of pasta dishes, but I especially like the ones that are kinda naked, with just a few other ingredients. This version is very appropriate for spring with the asparagus and the morels. There’s a lightness to it, a freshness from the snappy asparagus and the earthy, nutty flavor of the morels.

So tuck into Spring and make this Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels! If you want another great Spring pasta dish, try Bucatini with Charred Scallions and Red Pepper or Pasta with Spring Vegetables. Take care and be well, xo Kelly

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Kitchen Items Used in This Recipe

Bucatini with Asparagus and Morels

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Dinner, Main Course Italian/American
By Kelly Djalali Serves: 4
Prep Time: 45 Minutes (includes 30 minute morel soaking time) Cooking Time: 15 Minutes Total Time: ~1 Hour

This pasta dish is perfect for Spring; it's light, with a freshness from the snappy asparagus and the earthy, nutty flavor of the morels.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp. Olive Oil, plus more as needed and as garnish
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, woody ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • 1 oz. Dried Morel Mushrooms, rehydrated and patted dry (larger mushrooms cut in half)
  • Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
  • 4-6 Cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 lb. Dried Bucatini Pasta
  • 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp.-1 tbsp. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 cup Reserved Pasta Water

Instructions

1

Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Then cover the pot and reduce the heat until we're ready to cook the pasta.

2

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the asparagus slices to the heated pan. season with a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté the asparagus, stirring occasionally, until it turns bright green, about 1-2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium.

3

Add another drizzle of olive oil to the skillet and then add the morels to the pan. Increase the heat as needed to keep things lightly sizzling. Sauté for about 2 minutes.

4

Then add the pressed or minced garlic and stir to combine. Let the garlic cook with the morels and the asparagus for about 1 minute. Season with another pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Stir to mix, then turn the heat to low to keep the veggies cooking slowly.

5

Remove the lid from the water pot and increase the heat to bring back to a boil. When it's boiling again, add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, give the water a stir, then drop in the pasta. If you're using bucatini, set a timer for 8 minutes. Stir the pasta occasionally to keep it from sticking. Stir the asparagus and morels every now and then.

6

When the timer dings, use a measuring cup to scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

7

Then drain the pasta and add it back to the pot. Turn the burner to medium-low and add back in about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid.

8

Vigorously stir the pasta in the cooking liquid. Then, sprinkle on the 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and vigorously stir the pasta with the cheese, add another 1/4 cup of the pasta liquid and keep stirring. There should be a lightly creamy texture developing.

9

Add the crushed red peppers and vigorously stir again. Add more pasta liquid to keep everything lubricated. Then add the morels and asparagus to the pasta. Stir well to incorporate the veggies in the pasta. Then turn off the heat.

10

Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and stir again.

11

Serve in wide shallow bowls with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of flaky finishing salt, fresh cracked black pepper and grated Parmesan.

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  • Terry
    March 23, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Wow this screams spring, this looks so good. I will most definitely give this a shot.. have a great week ?❤️ Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      March 23, 2022 at 2:33 pm

      I am sure you will enjoy it, Mom! xo Kelly

  • Mari
    March 23, 2022 at 11:45 am

    That is gorgeous, and it really does scream that spring has arrived. The vibrant green is so beautiful. When I was a child, one of our neighbors went out looking for morels every spring, and they very kindly gave some to the other neighbors. My mom wouldn’t let us try them, because she said they weren’t meant for children. My brother somehow construed that to mean they were poisonous, and to this day has a strong aversion to mushrooms. The rest of us like them quite well, although none of us have kindly neighbors who hand out morels. Fortunately I do know people that are avid mushroom lovers and they do give us morels once in awhile. I have found them for sale at one of the grocery chains, at just under ten dollars for 0.5 ounces. In other news, my email increasingly reminds me of Sesame Street. Today, I was informed that it’s National Bavarian Crepe Day. I waited to see what the letter and number of the day were, and I’m still waiting. I will appoint them since Grover amd Ernie aren’t taking my calls. The letter T and the number 5 are my choices, regardless of what those guys come up,with! Happy Wednesday to Kelly, Alex, Terry and the kids. Enjoy the sunshine and warm weather, and if you live near a patch of morels, you are a lucky person, and the rest of us envy you. Have a wonderful day everybody.

    • Kelly Djalali
      March 23, 2022 at 2:39 pm

      Hello Mari, how wonderful to have friendly foragers! There is/was a mushroom stall in the Ferry Building market in San Francisco that I used to love visiting for their variety of mushrooms. I do miss it sometimes. Perhaps I should try to make friends with mushroom hunters! Thanks for stopping by today! xo Kelly

  • Carroll
    March 23, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    That does sound good! Are there any more widely available mushrooms that would be similar to the morel?

    • Kelly Djalali
      March 23, 2022 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Carroll, Morels are pretty special, there aren’t any other mushrooms that are quite like them in flavor and texture. I would try to go for dried morels if you can’t find fresh. That said, you can substitute with chanterelles or maybe oyster mushrooms, those both have a hearty flavor unique to themselves, though not entirely like morels. I hope that helps. Thank you for your question. xo Kelly