Friday, July 27, 2012


by Sheila Connolly

This past weekend I made a very quick trip to Philadelphia, for an event that was kinda, sorta held in my honor by a person who was the model for one of the main characters in my Philadelphia-based Museum Mystery series.

One of the Reading Terminal Market
vegetable stands

Since the hotel where I was staying was right next door, I had to visit the Reading Terminal Market again.  Twice.  I can't stay away.  Yes, I know I bored you with the fish recently, but this time I was hunting for mushrooms.  (This just might have something to do with the fact that Level Best Books will be publishing a short story of mine in November called "Kept in the Dark," which is about…a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer.)

And I found mushrooms, beyond the standard button and shitake and portabello.  I found fresh morels! Jack Czarnecki, the former proprietor of the beloved Joe's Restaurant in Reading, Pennsylvania, where I was privileged to eat many years ago (alas, it moved to the West Coast), called morels "aristocrats of the forest," right up there alongside truffles.  So of course when I see morels, I buy them—and celebrate!

So what to do with a lovely batch of fresh morels?  I turned to Jack Czarnecki's lovely cookbook, A Cook's Book of Mushrooms, for inspiration and found a simple pasta dish that highlights the flavor of the mushrooms (note that this is inspired by the original recipe, not a copy).

Pasta with Morels (or maybe it should be Morels with Pasta)

6 ounces pasta (you may use plain, spinach, or tomato or a mixture).  I had some amusing artisanal pasta that came in a jumble of diverse shapes, so I just picked out about six ounces of the shapes I liked (and I've got lots left), including butterflies

6 ounces fresh morels, cut in pieces more or less the same size as your pasta

2 Tblsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tblsp. soy sauce

½ cup beef bouillon

1 Tblsp. arrowroot (if you have it; if not, use cornstarch, but sparingly) mixed with one Tblsp. cold water

Bring about 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to your taste

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil or butter in a skillet.  Add the shallot and sauté over medium heat for about a minute, until it softens.  Add the sliced morels and sauté gently until the liquid is drawn from the mushrooms.  Stir in the salt, sugar, soy sauce and stock.  Simmer for another minute, then add the arrowroot mixture and cook gently until the sauce thickens.

Drain the pasta, place in a bowl, and toss with the morel mixture.  Serve immediately. In the amounts given here, it served two.  The available morels were the limiting factor (and they were delicious!).

This is about as simple a dish as you can make with mushrooms.  Of course, you can feel free to experiment by adding any of a number of chopped fresh herbs, or adding heavy cream or crème fraiche. But whatever you do, let the mushrooms shine!


  1. The only way people here in Iowa eat morels IF we can find them is fried....well that's the only way I've ever had them. They are the only mushroom I truly like. You can never find them in a market here because they are so weather dependant around here.

  2. Morels seem so exotic to me. But this recipe would work so beautifully with other mushrooms, too. Nice, simple, elegant. Love it. And your pasta shapes are such fun!

    ~ Krista

  3. The hard part is getting the morels. They are wonderful.

  4. I grew up and still live in mushroom-hunting heaven. I've not gone for years (I AWLAYS came home with a tick or three), but morels grow well here. We always had them battered in corn meal and fried.

  5. Krista-Yes, other mushrooms would work, but there is nothing like the flavor of a morel. It is unique and wonderful.