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Penne with Morels and Spring Vegetables

Penne with Morels and Spring Vegetables
Morels, with their earthy mushroom flavor, make this spring pasta special. They grow all over the Northwest in the spring but, as with any wild mushrooms, you should refrain from picking them unless you are, or are with, an expert forager.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. fresh morel or other flavorful wild or cultivated mushrooms (about 6 large), rinsed quickly or wiped clean and halved, if large
  • 1 leek, white and light green portions, rinsed well and finely julienned
  • 2 oz. prosciutto, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, about 3/4 lb., leaves finely shredded and stems cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed, spears cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen baby lima beans
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 lb. penne
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)
  • 1/2 cup grated or shaved pecorino romano cheese

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the mushrooms, leek, prosciutto and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leek is soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard wilts, 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add salt and the chard stems and boil until tender, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, scoop out the stems and add to the fry pan.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. The timing will depend upon the thickness of the spears. Scoop out the asparagus and add to the fry pan. Add the lima beans to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Scoop out the beans and add to the fry pan. Season the vegetables with the coarse salt; keep warm.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the pasta and the reserved water to a warmed large serving bowl.

Pour the contents of the fry pan over the pasta, add the lemon zest and cheese, and toss well. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, The Pacific Northwest, by Jean Galton (Time-Life Books, 2000).