Savory Mushroom Ragu
Welcome to Cookbook Week on Macheesmo! I’ll be posting recipes from five cookbooks this week and giving away copies! All winners will be announced next Friday (11/14).
I figured it would be good to contrast yesterday’s post (Meat Book) with a vegetarian recipe from the new, lovely cookbook from The Kitchn Team. While I am a contributor over at The Kitchn (my recipes), I had exactly zero to do with the cookbook.
More on the cookbook below in the giveaway section, but right now let’s talk mushrooms.
Mushrooms are my all-time favorite vegetarian substitute when I want something to taste meaty without all the meat. That’s why I use a ton of mushrooms in my favorite veggie burger recipe. Using the same concept, this ragu (which would traditionally be made with beef or pork) is completely delicious. It has tons of savory flavor and will leave your kitchen smelling like an Italian restaurant.
My official taste-tester (and very pregnant) wife, Betsy, didn’t actually say this was the best pasta sauce I’ve ever made, but she gave me that look… if you’ve ever fed a pregnant momma, you know that look.
If you’re using dried mushrooms, add them to 1 cup of boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain mushrooms and chop them. Reserve liquid for later.
1) In a heavy sauce pan or pot, add olive oil over medium heat. Then add onions, shallots, and a pinch of salt. Stir well and cook until they are soft, about 5 minutes.
2) Stir in the garlic paste (mashed with a pinch of salt) and rehydrated dried shrooms (if you’re using them), fresh chopped mushrooms, and thyme. Cover pot and cook for another 3-5 minutes, shaking pot occasionally.
3) Uncover pot and continue to cook over medium-high heat until mushrooms have lost their liquid and all the liquid is evaporated from the pan, another five minutes maybe.
4) When mushrooms start to brown slightly, push them all to the sides of the pan and add tomato paste to center. Mash it into the pan and let it caramelize for a minute.
5) Add wine to the pot and stir to remove any stuck bits. Once wine is mostly evaporated, add 1/2 cup of mushroom stock (if possible) or water.
6) Continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, adding stock in small batches, until the sauce is smooth and mushrooms are soft. Add Parmesan cheese at the end along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
7) Toss cooked rigatoni pasta in with sauce and serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.
Mushroom Ragu: Shrooms and Onions
This ragu doesn’t actually have that many ingredients. It’s gets a lot of flavor from simple basics. The original recipe in the book starts off with dried mushrooms. If you reconstitute some dried porcini mushrooms, you can use them (and more importantly the liquid) in the sauce. I neglected to get dried mushrooms at the store so I just left that out. Sauce was still great!
One thing you don’t want to skimp on though is the onions and shallots. Go heavy on them.
I used two kinds of mushrooms: cremini and shiitake. Both have their own flavor profiles and they work well together. I used more cremini than shiitake, but the recipe calls for just mushrooms so you can use anything really.
See that little bowl of paste? That’s garlic paste. It’s a few cloves of garlic mashed together with salt. It’s a great way to add garlic flavor to the sauce.
Cooking the Mushroom Ragu
You need a big saucepan to really make this happen. You could also use a pot or a dutch oven though.
Start by adding the oil over medium heat and all the onions and shallots. Once those soften, add all the mushrooms and the garlic paste. Cover these and let the mushrooms cook down for about five minutes.
Then uncover the pan and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, probably another 5-7 minutes.
Then move all the ‘shrooms to the outside and add the tomato paste to the center. Let that caramelize a bit and then add the wine. This will hiss and sizzle and you can use all that liquid to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.
If you happen to have used dried mushrooms, add them back in and also add 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. If not though, no worries. Just start adding the stock to the pan in small batches (1/4 cup maybe) and stir it slowly until the sauce is a rich, thick sauce.
It’ll take at least 20 minutes to simmer the sauce down with the stock until it gets to this point. Now the sauce is done!
At the end, add the Parmesan cheese and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Then add the cooked pasta straight to the pan!
At this point if the sauce is too tight, add a little extra stock or water to loosen it up.
Serve this all up immediately with other Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.
In short, make this. It’s a fantastic pasta dish.
Let’s talk cookbook!
This was a very different cookbook than I was expecting. For some reason I thought it was going to be a compilation of the favorite recipes from the website, which would’ve been just fine given the shear number of recipes on that site.
But, the book turned out to be more of a all-encompassing philosophical look at the kitchen… or, your kitchen. The recipes are part of this philosophy, but just a part. I would guess they are about half of the book and don’t even start until page 129. A lot of the book focuses instead on how to be successful in the kitchen.
It has thorough sections on equipment, techniques, planning, storage, and just general kitchen care. The book doesn’t present a single recipe until it makes sure you have the right tools. Very smart indeed!
Even after the recipes, you’ll find tips on entertaining and gathering with others.
While this is a great cookbook for anybody, I think it would be particularly good for someone just learning how to cook or someone who is starting a cooking lifestyle. It’s a fantastic starter book that’s very thorough.
Oh… and the recipes? Well, they all look great and if even half of them turn out as good as this mushroom ragu, then you’ll be in good shape.
I’m using Rafflecopter to manage these giveaways, but if the widget below doesn’t load for you… no worries! You can always just leave a comment to be entered to win.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for another cookbook giveaway and enter the Meat Book giveaway if you haven’t already!