It wasn’t long after finding my first blonde morel that I had collected enough to shoot a recipe. The temptation to simply flour and fry these morsels nags at me constantly because it’s easy and delicious and probably my favorite way to enjoy my favorite eating mushrooms (porcini remain my favorite “finding” mushrooms). However, the first freshly foraged morels are automatically designated for new recipes because one is never certain – but certainly hopeful – that there will be more.
two buddies emerging from the grass and leaf litter
mushrooms on mushrooms
I knew I wanted to involve lobster and then I threw asparagus in there because it’s spring and asparagus and morels typically appear on the plains around the same time. Why not stuff it all in some agnolotti, which is a pasta I was unaware of until a few months ago? Agnolotti is like an easier version of mini ravioli and I’m a little obsessed with it. The filling is dotted or piped in a line along a strip of pasta and then folded over and cut. Well, it’s more complicated than that, but you get the gist… or you will after you read the post!
Start by making the pasta dough. I don’t have any one definitive pasta dough recipe. They all seem to involve a combination of flour, eggs, and salt, and sometimes egg yolks and/or olive oil. It’s a mess of flour and flecks of dough that eventually come together into a nice ball if you are patient and stick with it. Don’t throw out that excess flour – sift out the chunky bits and use the rest for flouring your work surface.
the pasta dough: flour, eggs, salt, olive oil
stir the eggs, salt, and olive oil in a well in the flour
incorporate as much flour as the dough will absorb (you will have extra flour)
knead the dough
when the dough springs back from a poke, it’s ready to rest
While the dough rests, begin preparing the filling. I reserved my fresh morels for the sauce and garnish because I like having visual cues for what is inside the pasta. For the filling, I defrosted 2 ounces of frozen butter-sautéed black morels from last season. That is equivalent to about 8 ounces of fresh morels sautéed in butter. You could also use rehydrated dried morels – just soak in hot water for 30 minutes, squeeze the liquid out, and give it a quick sauté with butter in a hot pan. For the lobster, I managed a little over 4 ounces of meat from a small cold-water lobster tail. Cut the underside of the tail and carefully open the shell to reveal the lobster meat. This will likely crack the top of the shell, so watch your hands. Pull the meat out and chop it into big pieces (it doesn’t really matter what size because the lobster is going to get blitzed in the food processor). For the asparagus, I use the stalks for the filling and reserve the tips for garnish.
butter, morels, salt, pepper, parmesan, asparagus, lobster, garlic
cut the lobster meat into chunks
ingredients prepped for cooking
If you are using fresh morels in your filling, I recommend cooking them first. They usually give off a little (or a lot) of liquid which I don’t want to steam my other ingredients. I let the liquid cook off and cook the morels until they are lightly browned. For the rehydrated or thawed morels, add them last. It’s best to sauté the asparagus until it is bright green before adding the lobster as the lobster cooks in no time. Pour it all into your food processor and pulse until the filling is the desired consistency. You could turn it into a paste, but I like a little texture so I leave it slightly chunky – like a rough mince. Stir in the Parmesan and refrigerate the filling until you are ready to make the agnolotti.
add the lobster when the asparagus are almost cooked
stir in the morels
place the filling in a food processor
stir the parmesan into the filling
Having eaten agnolotti didn’t mean it was easy for me to intuit how to make it. And reading about how to make agnolotti isn’t a huge help either. I found this video of an Italian grandmother making agnolotti to be quite educational and highly recommend watching it once or several times if you are making your own. Besides, I just love grandmas.
How thin should you roll the dough out? I read 2 mm thickness on one recipe, and then someone said setting #5 (which is 1.5 mm thickness on my Atlas Marcato pasta machine), and then others have suggested the second thinnest setting which is #8 or 0.8 mm on my machine. I went with setting #5 on this round and I recommend going thinner to #8. It was just too thick for my tastes where the pasta gets folded over.
I should point out that there are two ways of laying out the filling. You can do little dollops like the Italian grandma did or if the filling consistency is more like a paste, you can pipe it through a plain tip (or just cut the tip of a disposable piping bag) as a continuous strip along the pasta dough. Both ways work, but with my chunkier filling, I do think it’s less problematic if you drop discrete blobs as opposed to a continuous line.
cut the dough into quarters
roll the dough out to desired thickness
space the filling an inch apart
roll the edge of the pasta over the filling
press and seal the edge to the dough
This is actually called agnolotti del (al or dal) plin – plin meaning “pinch” because the pasta is pinched between the filling to make each little heavenly pillow. When you have your tube of pasta formed, begin pinching between the lumps of filling to seal the individual pillows, or if you have a continuous line of filling, pinch every inch or so. Trim the excess dough off the sealed edge of your pasta and then cut the agnolotti at each pinch point.
pinch between the lumps of filling
trim the edge with a pasta cutter
cut the agnolotti at the pinch points
let the agnolotti dry for 30 minutes in a single layer
While the agnolotti is drying, you can get your pot of salted water boiling (about a tablespoon for a gallon of water). Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. I like “stuff” in my sauce – pieces of morel or a chunk of lobster – but that doesn’t mean you have to prepare it this way. You could stick with a wine-cream sauce and toss that with your cooked agnolotti and call it good. Options, people. It’s good to have options.
cream, white wine, morels, lemon, salt, butter, garlic, lobster, pepper
slice the morels
I sauté the morels first to let their excess water boil off, then remove them and cook the lobster. When the lobster is almost cooked through, I remove it to a bowl. It will continue to cook a little from the residual heat and will not be added back to the sauce until just before serving to keep the meat tender. The morels go back into the pan with some white wine. Let most of that liquid simmer off. There should be two tablespoons of liquid left from the wine when you add the cream. When the cream begins to simmer, stir in the lobster, season with salt and pepper, and grate the lemon zest into the pan. Turn the heat to low and keep the sauce warm as you wait for the pasta to cook.
pan-sear the morels
cook the lobster, then remove from pan
heat the morels with the wine
when the wine has reduced to an eighth of its volume, add the cream
stir in the lobster, season with salt and pepper, add lemon zest
cook the agnolotti
When the agnolotti are cooked, drain and toss them in the cream sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta. A little sauce goes a long way, so don’t drown the pasta. I finish them with Parmesan, chopped parsley, chopped edible flowers, and arrange extras like pieces of lobster, morels, and asparagus on the plate. I do think I rolled the pasta a little too thick, but now I know better. The texture of the filling was just right. I’m glad I didn’t make it into a purée because being able to chew on bits of lobster and morel and even a little crunch from the asparagus was delightful. Had I skipped the lobster, I might have made a smooth filling with ricotta cheese, morels, and asparagus. Overall, this dish was amazing and special. It felt like a second reward after finding blonde morels. But I’m even more excited about the different kinds of agnolotti I’m going to make this summer as the mushroom season really gets going.
a plate of spring
each agnolotti is stuffed with deliciousness
Lobster Morel Agnolotti
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or “00” flour)
3 whole eggs
3/4 tsp olive oil
scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
8 oz. fresh morels (cleaned) and 1 tbsp unsalted butter, or 2 oz. butter-sautéed morels*
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 oz. asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (I use the stalks and reserve sautéed tips for garnish)
4 oz. raw lobster meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
black pepper, freshly ground
1 oz Parmesan, grated
2 tbsps unsalted butter
8 oz. fresh morels, cleaned and sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-12 oz. lobster meat, raw and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup white wine
1-2 cups cream
black pepper, freshly ground
1 lemon, zest of
* These morels go into the filling. If you don’t have fresh morels, you can use dried morels by rehydrating in hot (boiling hot) water for 30 minutes and squeezing them out before tossing into a hot sauté pan with a nub of butter. Or if you have frozen morels, thaw them out and sauté with a pat of butter. I tend to sauté my fresh seasonal morels in butter and freeze them for up to a year. These get thawed and tossed into the pan with the lobster and asparagus.
Make the pasta dough: Pile the flour on a clean work surface or in a large wide and deep bowl and make a well in the center of the flour. Place the eggs, olive oil, and salt in the well. Use a fork to incorporate the flour into the eggs until it is too thick to mix. Use your hand to mix in more flour until the ball of dough cannot accommodate any more flour. Set the ball of dough aside. Sift all of the remaining flour (about 1+ cups) and discard the hard bits that remain. Keep the sifted flour nearby as you work the dough.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth, consistent in texture throughout, firm, and just slightly tacky (but not sticky). If the dough is too sticky, work in more flour. The dough is ready when you poke it with your finger and it bounces back. Wrap the dough loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or up to 8 hours. Makes 12 ounces of dough.
Make the filling: If using fresh morels, make sure they are cleaned. [To clean morels: I like to swish in a bowl of cold water, fill the hole with water and shake each one out. I remove any difficult debris with a knife (or if the mushroom is wormed out, I chuck it into my yard under the aspens). I lay the mushrooms out in a single layer on paper towels on a cooling rack to let them dry out for 30 minutes or more before cooking.] Heat a tablespoon of butter in a hot sauté pan and sauté the morels until wilted and lightly browned. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of butter and the garlic to same pan over medium high heat. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the asparagus and sauté until bright green. Add the lobster to the pan and stir-fry until the meat is just cooked. Stir in the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Place the contents of the pan into a food processor and pulse to desired consistency. It happens quickly, so if you like it chunky, keep a light finger on the button. Scrape the filling into a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan. Cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the agnolotti: Cut the dough into quarters. Loosely cover three of the quarters with the plastic wrap while you work the first quarter. On a lightly floured work surface, flatten the dough with the palm of your hand. You can run the dough through a pasta machine start on the thickest setting and then gradually work down to the desired thickness – about 1/32-inch or 8 mm or setting 8 on an Atlas Marcato pasta machine. If rolling by hand, use a rolling pin and roll away from you, turn 90 degrees and roll away from you, and repeat. Keep doing this until the dough is about 1/32-inch thick or thin enough to read newsprint through it.
Cut the pasta into 12-inch sections. Starting with the first section of pasta, place half-teaspoon dollops (or smaller) of filling an inch apart along the long edge of the dough. Grab the long edge of the dough and fold it over the filling blobs so that there is enough pasta margin to enclose the filling and seal the long edge. Now pinch the pasta between the blobs of filling, creating little pillows. Using a pasta cutter or knife, trim the long edge of the pasta just outside of the filling, but along the double layer margin. Use your pasta cutter to cut the agnolotti starting from the folded side and cutting across the pinched space to the cut edge. Repeat until all of the agnolotti have been cut. Repeat for the rest of the pasta until you run out of filling. Don’t pile the finished agnolotti on top of each other lest they stick. Lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan dusted with flour for 30 minutes as they wait to be cooked. You can also lay them in a single layer on a sheet pan and store them uncovered in the refrigerator for up to a day or freeze them until firm, then bag them and freeze for later use.
Get the water boiling: Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. While you wait for the water to boil, you can get started on the sauce.
Cook the sauce: Melt a tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the morels and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from pan (reserve any nice pieces for garnish). Add a tablespoon of butter to the same pan with the garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle, stir in the lobster meat and sauté until just cooked through. Remove the lobster meat from the pan (reserve any nice pieces for garnish). Return the morels to the hot pan and pour in the white wine. Let the wine boil down to about two tablespoons (an ounce) and add the cream. When the cream begins to simmer, stir in the lobster meat, season with salt and pepper, and add the lemon zest. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the pasta: When the water has come to a boil, add the agnolotti and cook for a couple of minutes or until tender. Drain the pasta and toss with the warm cream sauce. Divvy the pasta into bowls and top with grated Parmesan, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. Garnish with pieces of reserved morels, lobster, and asparagus tips. Serves 4-6.
more goodness from the use real butter archives
|seared duck breast with morels and asparagus||morel bourbon cream sauce||pheasant and morel vols au vent||morel prosciutto asparagus pizza|