Morel Manicotti 

I have previously written about the fact that though I like morels, they are not my favorites. I think perhaps I have transferred my displeasure with the bad behavior exhibited by some people during morel season onto the mushrooms themselves.  I’ll have to give that more though, for sure. While they are good mushrooms, they are not the greatest, in my humble opinion. 

Another issue I have with them is that for most people, the *ONLY* way they are cooked (and in fact the only way people strongly believe they *SHOULD* be cooked) is by frying them in some sort of batter or coating. I find that as culinarily challenging as frozen waffles. Which are gross. Buy a waffle iron for Pete’s sake!

While an occasional fry up wouldn’t be so bad, that is the ONLY way some folks eat them.  The same thing over and over and over… ug. So awhile back I decided to challenge myself to come up with new and more interesting ways to cook all mushrooms, not just morels. I wanted to come up with recipes that highlight the mushrooms, but transform them into something far greater than they are alone. I‘ve developed some really great meals, including stuffed pork loins, stuffed morels, and surprisingly enough; falafel. 

This year I wanted to try something different.  The season has been strange; early and species fruiting out of their unusual order. I found a mess of M. diminutiva, which around here are usually at the end of the season, before the usual M. esculenta. That species of morel (diminutiva) never gets very large. They have a good flavor, but they aren’t the giant monsters that people come to expect. When I found dozens of mature diminutiva while the esculenta were barely nubbins in the soil, I decided to go ahead and harvest the diminutiva. 

Since they are small, I thought it would actually be the perfect species for some creative rcipes since (hopefully) no one will cry over throwing them in the food processor and obliterating them. I picked about 4 cups of the diminutiva for this recipe. 

I know many people soak their mushrooms, or wash them. I have myself if they are exceptionally muddy. I’m here to tell you that if you can avoid washing them, do so. Brush them off, cut them open to make sure they don’t have any uninvited guests and call it good. The flavor of unwashed morels is much better than washed morels. Much.

Back to the recipe. Here’s how I did it. I started 2 quarts of salted water to boil, and turned the oven on to preheat to 350 degrees F.  I cleaned up 4 cups of morels while the oven and water were coming to temperature.  Once the morels were clean, (trigger warning to morel extremists) I put them in the food processor. I chopped them in small batches until they were slightly larger than rice grains. Then I added the rest of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

¼ Cup chopped wild garlic (much milder than domesticated)

¼ Cup finely diced sweet onion

¼ Cup fresh chopped basil and oregano (can use dried Italian seasoning)

½ Cup parmesian or asiago cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup cottage cheese

1 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
Give everything a good mix, though I suggest pulsing it rather than just letting it run. Once everything is uniformly mixed, like the below photo, the filling is ready.

About that time, my water had come to a boil, so I added my manicotti tubes. While those were cooking, I took a plain, one gallon, freezer bag, folded the top 2 inches to the outside, and spooned in my filling. I put it all in one corner, to make it a piping bag. Pro tip- leave an air space at the point so you can cut the corner off without making a mess.

Once the manicotti tubes are al dente, let them cool enough that you can handle the fragile little rage inducing pasta traumatizers that they are. Fill the bottom of a casserole or baking dish with the pasta sauce of your choice. I used a low carb red sauce. I have a number of vintage Corningware and Pyrex dishes that I like to use for this sort of thing, but you could just as easily have used a cast iron skillet, honestly. 

CAREFULLLY pipe the filling into the manicotti tubes. Channel as much Zen as you can for this because those little bastards are slippery, like to collapse, rip, tear, and if you aren’t paying attention, leak the filling you just lovingly piped into them right out the back. As you get them filled, put them in the bottom of your baking dish. 

Aren’t they lovely?  I put a little more of the low carb red sauce across them, then buried them in an Italian 7 cheese shredded mix. This is defiantly not a recipe for the lactose intolerant. 

Bake at 350 until internal temperatures of 165 degrees and cheese is browned. Here you have it in it all its melted cheese glory!

We had it for dinner that night and it was delicious. For those of you who will stamp your foot and dealer that I ruined the morels because you wouldn’t be able to taste them, you are DEAD WRONG.  

Morels are not as delicate in flavor as people think. They have a pretty good flavor if you don’t wash it all off. They can stand up to the other flavors, and they seem to pair with dairy products very well. It is not the same SORT of flavor; it is different. I strongly urge everyone to try something  little different with your morels. Don’t just fy them. You are doing yourself and the mushroom a huge disservice. 

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