Morel madness sets in with seasonal-food fiends this time of year. If you haven't had a fresh morel, the $30-a-pound price might seem insane. But you don't need many to get that morel essence, and they're not heavy.

What you get is this: a delightfully chewy texture and woodsy, almost smoky flavor in a mushroom that has a pleasing honeycomb texture. If you need to economize, you can use half cremini or button mushrooms. The bold woodsy taste will suffuse the dish, and you'll now be a morel fiend.


Spring Pasta with MorelsHands-on: 24 min. Total: 24min.

Clean fresh morels with a quick dunk-and-swish in a bowl of water, as woodland debris collects in the honeycombs. Pat dry. If you substitute dried morels for fresh, a 2.5-ounce package will work.

1 tablespoon butter1/4 cup minced shallots1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme1/2 teaspoon kosher salt6 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)12 cups water12 ounces asparagus, trimmed1 (12-ounce) package fresh fettuccine1/4 cup half-and-half1 teaspoon grated lemon rind3 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, thyme, salt, and mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes. Add stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat.
  2. Bring 12 cups water to a boil in a Dutch oven. Shave asparagus into thin strips using a vegetable peeler. Add pasta to pan; cook 2 minutes. Add asparagus; cook 2 minutes. Drain.
  3. Return mushroom mixture to medium-high heat; add half-and-half and lemon rind. Add cream cheese and pepper, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add mushroom mixture to pasta mixture in Dutch oven; toss to combine. Top with tarragon.