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Foraged Greens Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

henbit pasta 

I originally invented this recipe because I was looking for a way to make henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) not only edible but actually taste good (read my post about foraging for henbit here). It is a cold-hardy plant that I wrote about a few weeks ago because it's a reliable winter forage even in areas that are well below freezing at this time of year.

The trouble with henbit is that its flavor includes musty overtones. Someone commented on my blog that it has a "mushroomy taste." Bingo! Pairing henbit with wild mushrooms turns that quality into a pro rather than a con.

If henbit doesn't grow near you, chickweed is another cold-hardy wild green that works well in this recipe. Or, in warmer months, try nettles or lamb's quarters. Other wild leafy greens would work as well. Hen of the woods (maitake) is my mushroom of choice for this dish, but you can substitute whichever edible mushrooms you have on hand, including cultivated varieties.

Wild Greens Pasta with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce

• 1/2 pound henbit leaves
• 2 eggs
• 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 garlic clove, peeled
• 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or peccorino romano cheese, divided
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 3/4 cup semolina flour
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms or reconstituted from dried (save the soaking liquid)
• 1 cup mushroom stock (or soaking liquid from dried mushrooms) OR vegetable OR chicken stock
• 1/2 cup light cream
• 1/4 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• freshly ground black pepper
• salt to taste

For the Noodles:

1. Cook the henbit leaves in very little water for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately run cold water over them. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Pulse the cooked henbit and the peeled garlic in a food processor (or finely mince with a knife).

3. Add the egg and puree the ingredients (or mix thoroughly by hand).

4. Reserve 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour. Whisk together the rest of the all-purpose and the semolina flours in a large bowl. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a clean counter or cutting board. Make a well (indentation) in the center.

5. Pour the egg-henbit mixture into the well in the center of the flour. Mix the flour into the liquid mixture with a fork.

6. Knead the mixture by hand for 10 minutes (or in a stand mixer with the bread hook or food processor with the dough blade until the dough comes together into a ball). Kneading by hand is better because you have more control of how much flour ends up in the dough: stop incorporating more as soon as it is possible to knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers.

7. Cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

8. Lightly dust your work surface. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Roll one of the quarters out with a rolling pin or an old wine bottle until it is as thin as you can get it. Turn the dough over frequently while you roll it out, and dust with additional flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking to your rolling implement.

9. Give the rolled out dough one more light sprinkling of flour then roll it up loosely. Cut crosswise so that it forms coils of 1/4 to 1/2 - inch wide noodles. Uncoil the coils and dust them with additional flour.

For the Sauce:

1. If you're using dried mushrooms, first soak them in boiling hot water for 15 minutes. Drain (reserving the soaking liquid) and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Whether you started with fresh mushrooms or dried, coarsely chop them.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the mushrooms and a little salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then most of the liquid evaporates.

3. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high.

4. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and/or the stock a small splash at a time, stirring constantly. Add the thyme. Each addition should thicken before you add more liquid. When it is all the consistency of a thick gravy, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Bring It Together:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh henbit noodles and stir gently. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain. Return to the pot, add the sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Toss gently to coat the noodles with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Serve with additional grated cheese and a little minced fresh henbit sprinkled over as a garnish (or parsley).

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.

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