Chanterelle Mushroom Pesto
Chanterelle Mushroom Pesto
In the fall after the first rains, chanterelle mushrooms pop up in the Pacific Northwest forests They also are found June through November if the weather is cool and wet. But it is in the autumn of the year when the tree leaves begin to turn colors that thoughts of chanterelle mushroom dishes seem most desirable. They are high in B-complex vitamins making them perfect for a vegetarian or vegan diet which can sometimes be lacking in these essential nutrients. Other varieties are also found in Europe and on the East coast, but the Northwest chanterelles are the meatiest!
Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa, Italy and classically made from fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and hard grating cheese. So, substituting chanterelle mushrooms for some of the basil is a leap of liberty. Mushrooms and tomato paste have a savory, umami rich flavor that serves to enhance whatever dish they may be served with, on, or in, much like the herb-vibrant Genovese pesto. If not on a strict plant-based diet one can enjoy the addition of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, however, this sauce stands well without!
7 ounces chanterelle mushrooms (roughly 4 cups or less shredded)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided (4 tablespoons and 6 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh basil, minced
2 teaspoons double concentrated tomato paste
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1. Brush excess debris from the mushrooms. Use a wetted and squeezed dry paper towel to remove any excess debris. If water-soaked quickly dip into a clean bowl of water, remove, and dry in a clean kitchen towel thoroughly. It is important to keep as dry as possible. Hand tear into thin shreds lengthwise.
2. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium high heat. (Do not crowd the mushrooms. Do in two batches if necessary).
3. Add four tablespoons (or two tablespoons per batch if divided in half) to the very hot pan. When a white smoke begins to lift add the shredded mushrooms and toss with tongs. Sprinkle with salt. After a minute or so add the pine nuts. Toss with tongs until the mushrooms have wilted and the pine nuts begin to brown.
4. Add the garlic and toss for about thirty seconds more. Transfer to a sheet pan and cool to room temperature.
5. In a food processor pulse the mushroom, pine nut mixture with the remaining six tablespoons of olive oil, basil, tomato paste, and black pepper until mixed but still slightly chunky.
6. At this point the pesto can be used to top toasted bread rounds for an appetizer or for a pasta dish. It may be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen up to one month.
Whole Wheat Penne Pasta with Chanterelle Mushroom Pesto
3 cups dry whole wheat penne pasta* (about 7 ounces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups chanterelle mushroom pesto
4 large fresh basil leaves thinly sliced into ribbons
¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Sprinkles of truffle zest*
1. Bring a half gallon of filtered water to a boil. Add the salt and penne pasta. Cook according to package directions or until al dente. Drain through a colander, reserving some of the liquid.
2. Toss the pasta with half of the mushroom pesto, adding a bit of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen it up a bit and making it more like a sauce.
3. Place in a large pasta bowl or four serving bowls. Top with the remaining one cup of pesto, and basil ribbons.
4. If desired sprinkle with cheese and/or truffle zest. Serve hot.
*I use organic 100% whole wheat penne rigate (with ridges to hold the pesto) by Bionaturae from Italy.
**I use truffle zest seasoning by Sabatino Tartufi from Italy.
(Both can be found on Amazon).