Market Dinner: Fettuccine with Baby Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms

Yesterday was one of those days when I’m glad that I tend to overstock the pantry with dried pasta (among other things), because I was able to throw together this simple dinner using my Portland produce. I found a bag of wild mushroom fettuccine hiding behind the Barilla spaghetti in my cupboard – lucky me.

I’d never had the opportunity to taste a fresh porcini mushroom. I use the dried ones frequently, though. They’re readily available and are pretty strongly flavored – a little goes a long way in soups or sauces. One of my cooking contest friends even used dried porcini “dust” in a prize-winning recipe at the National Beef Cookoff last year.

I ‘d assumed that you had to go Italy or France to find fresh porcini, also known as Boletus edulis (and as “cepes”in French). So I just about fell over when I saw them on the menu in a pasta dish at a little neighborhood restaurant, Alba Osteria, on our first night in Portland. Since Fresh and Local is the mantra there, I was on the lookout for these plump fungi at the market, and sure enough, a wise old forager had a nice selection of them on display at his booth at the Farmer’s Market.

According to him, the mushrooms should be cut in half to ensure there aren’t any critters living inside, and stored in a paper bag in a cool place. I bought one to take home, and it arrived in fine shape. It was only just starting to break a sweat after 8 hours of traveling in my tote bag.

I trimmed the base and most of the leaves off the artichokes (and actually, I could have trimmed off even more – don’t be shy at this step), leaving just a tight, light green ball, and sliced them in half. They were pretty tiny. I cut the mushroom into thick slices, and admired the soft, pure white flesh inside (critter free, thankfully). I braised the artichokes for about 10 minutes in lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic and a scoop of pasta water from the fettuccine before adding the mushrooms. They soaked up the liquid like little sponges, and tasted delicious, with a creamy texture and a milder flavor compared to the dried version.

Thanks to the efforts of Alanna at A Veggie Venture, this recipe will be sponsored by this cute little sweet tomato. You can get your own here.
Or better yet, go out and visit your local farmer’s market!

Fettuccine with Baby Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms
serves 4

12 ounces mushroom flavored fettuccine (plain would be just fine)
1/2 pound baby artichokes, bases and tops trimmed off and outer leaves removed down to the pale green part, sliced in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large fresh porcini mushroom, cut into 1/2-wide slices, or 1/4 ounce dried porcini soaked in warm water 15 minutes and drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Italian parsley
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for grating at the table

Bring a 6-8 quart pot of water to a boil and salt generously – about 2 tablespoons kosher salt.

Place the artichokes in a medium skillet with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and 1/4 cup water or broth. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes, adding some of the boiling water if the pan begins to dry. Toss in the mushrooms and cook, uncovered, until tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.

Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce in a warmed serving bowl. You could add a large knob of butter at this point, too, if you’re so inclined. Pass the Parmigiano at the table.

Serve with an Oregon Pinor Noir if you’re looking for a perfect pairing.

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