Pasta with Cheese Sauce, Chanterelles, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach

chanterelle pasta 2.jpgI have been wanting to try chanterelle mushrooms for a long time but haven’t bought them because I promised my son I wouldn’t sell him to buy fancy groceries.  I live in a damp region which encourages a diverse and plentiful population of mushrooms and it’s my plan to learn to forage them.  Near the end of the season last year I found some old boletes and some decaying chanterelles which didn’t make me hungry.  I hope to do better this year.  In the meantime one of the local organic farms I buy  my produce from had some chanterelles (foraged by their friend- boy would I like to know their foraging spots) were being offered for a single dollar digit per pound and I had to splurge. 

I love wild mushrooms generally mixed with cultivated ones.  On their own they’re often too maneurish for my taste.  Chanterelles, it turns out, are very mild and don’t need to be toned down by tamer cousins.  Aside from their delicate flavor, they have other charms: they’re very pretty and when sliced thin length-wise they make sweet curling shapes that remind me of ancient handwritten letters.

I think you should know that I wash my mushrooms under water.  I am completely aware that this breaks precious culinary laws and I am unconcerned.  The water the mushrooms soak up in the process of being washed gets cooked off quickly and I’ve never noticed an increase of mushroom flavor when eating mushrooms that haven’t been mauled by the faucet.  I respect you if you like to brush them.  I suspect it gives one a greater connection to their worth and cost- to treat them like rare treats one might not get to eat again for a long time. 

I will continue to wash mine in water.

This recipe is rich.  I’m not going to apologize to anyone’s waistline for presenting it.  Treat yourself just this once and I think you won’t be apologizing to your waistline either. 


6 servings for gluttonous individuals like myself
8 servings for modest portions

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
10 ounces chanterelle mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 lb fresh spinach, chopped
2 tbsp water

3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 shakes of cayenne
3 cups of low fat milk, warmed
2 1/2 cups Emmentaler cheese, grated

1 lb angel-hair pasta

chanterelles sliced 2.jpgMethod:

Heat up the olive oil in a saute pan (on med/high heat) and add the onions to it.  As soon as the onions begin to brown a little turn the heat down to med/low and continue to saute them until they caramelize.  Be sure to stir them frequently to prevent burning them which makes them bitter.

When the onions are caramelized, add the chanterelles.  Let them cook for a few minutes and then add the spinach and the water and after you’ve stirred everything well, put the lid on the pan for a minute to encourage the spinach to completely wilt.  When the spinach is wilted, remove the pan from heat and set aside.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil while making the cheese sauce, add the pasta to it as soon as it’s boiling.  I find that the pasta and the cheese sauce get done in about the same amount of time.

With the butter, flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne, make a light roux.  Whisk the warm milk into the roux and cook gently until it thickens.  Once thickened, remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Stir the cheese gently until it’s completely incorporated into the sauce. 

adding to the sauce 2.jpgAdd the chanterelle, onion, and spinach mixture into the cheese sauce.

Drain the pasta when it’s finished (test a piece for doneness).  Return it to the pot and pour the sauce over it.  I find the best way to blend the sauce into the pasta is with metal tongs. 

chanterelle cheese pasta 2.jpg

Serve it up!  I am a glutton for Parmesan but this pasta doesn’t actually need any extra cheese or garnishes.  I add the Parmesan anyway.

Recipe Notes:  If you can’t find Chanterelles any mushroom will be a good substitute.  If you’d like more iron to offset the richness of…everything else in the dish, I think you can safely double the amount of spinach without detracting from the other flavors because spinach has incredible shrinking power and even doubled will not amount to overdoing it. 

I’ve made this with sharp white cheddar which was fantastic; gouda would be good too though I prefer stronger sharper flavors.  If you want to coat your arteries just a little more, you can use whole milk or even some cream.  The reason I use low fat is because I like it best, not because it’s lower in fat.  I find the cheese adds plenty of creaminess here. 

You can also lower the cheese amount if you’re a fool.  (Just kidding!)  I usually only use two cups of cheese in my cheese sauces, I find it sufficient, the reason there’s more this time is because I had a half a cup left over and no plans for it.  I’m not sorry for the extra Emmentaler here, though I’m fatter this morning, I’m sure. 

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7 thoughts on “Pasta with Cheese Sauce, Chanterelles, Caramelized Onions, and Spinach

  1. Angelina

    I often forget how good Emmentaler is. I like gouda but I prefer to eat it unmelted. Oh man, this dish is going to haunt me when it’s gone (there’s still a little left over).

  2. Sue

    Angelina, I was looking for a good way to use chanterelles and found your recipe. Can’t wait to try it! Everything about it really appeals. I think I’ll be adding Parmesan, too.

  3. Sue

    That was truly one of the best things I have ever eaten! Thanks for one gem of a recipe. I ended up using Gruyere for the Emmentaler and roasted asparagus in place of the spinach (what I had in the house at the time).

  4. Angelina

    Sue- I’m so happy you liked it! It’s always excellent to adapt recipes to what’s on hand. Asparagus sounds like it would be great in this. I’ve also made this sauce with Gruyere so I knew it was a good substitute but it’s been a long time since I’ve done it because I love the Emmentaler so much.
    I just used up some more chanterelles on a flop of a dish. Such a bummer when I could have made this again!

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