you know those things you discover one day and love so much you can’t believe you’ve lived without them till now? fried capers are one of those things for me. had i known how different they are when fried, and how much they can add to a basic pasta, for example, i would have been using them to make many simple dishes a little more special. i’ve become kind of obsessed with them now. they’re really flavourful…salty, savoury, and i found it hard not to eat all of them on their own while i was making the rest of this recipe. to try and justify eating them on their own more often, i thought maybe i could fry them, stick them in the fridge, and have them as a snack with a cold beer or glass of white wine on a hot afternoon. but this is probably as unhealthy a snack as chewing on salt might be, so i need to work on that idea a little more. in the meantime, back to the recipe at hand–a pasta that is crunchy, salty, sweet, tangy and hearty all at once.
if (and it’s a big if) you can find them, nebrodi mushrooms are great in this recipe. they grow in the nebrodi region of italy, and are similar to oyster mushrooms, but are meatier and stay plumper after cooking than the oyster mushrooms do. but oyster mushrooms are perfect for this recipe too.
in fact, it was a recipe for oyster mushrooms that i found years ago in gourmet magazinethat are at the centre of this pasta. it called for marinading them in orange juice and lemon juice, before grilling them on the barbeque. they were delicious and came out slightly crispy and juicy at the same time, and i’ve since adapted that recipe quite a bit to include nutty and rich sesame oil for one thing. much more recently, i came across a pasta recipe, also in gourmet,that called for fried capers and breadcrumbs and i suddenly had the urge to combine those and the mushrooms together in a recipe. i’d never had these mushrooms with pasta and i’d never made them without using a grill. the new result was good but very different. for one thing, with no where for the marinade and water from the mushrooms to run off in a skillet, the oyster mushrooms don’t carmelize nearly as much as they do on the grill. but the upside is that you can reduce that sweet and savoury citrus marinade until you have a perfect sauce for the pasta.
the mushrooms don’t have to marinade for long. just about the time it takes to fry the bread crumbs and capers, and get your pasta water started. while there are a few “parts” to this recipe, everything cooks so quickly that it takes no time to come together. i think it’s a great pasta for warmer months, with bright, juicy flavours and no heavy sauce. if you read this previous post, you know i already enjoyed it al fresco once this year. i highly recommend you try it the same way if you can!
crisp fried caper, breadcrumb and oyster mushroom pasta