On the menu: Fettuccine with Mushroom Ragu
We picked up the March/April issue of Cook’s Illustrated as soon as we saw it on the stands. There are lots of great recipes to try tucked within its pages, and on a night when neither of us wanted to put a lot of effort into our dinner, we turned to the recipe for Quick Mushroom Ragu. I could eat pasta everyday for the rest of my life and never get bored, so I love finding and trying recipes for different pasta sauces.
Ragus are traditionally really thick, meaty sauces that cook for a very long time. This version replaces the meat with mushrooms and is done in a little over half an hour. Don’t be worried about the meat replacement, friends. This sauce is hearty and delicious. It starts off with a ton of mushrooms; cremini mushrooms for body and dried porcini mushrooms for flavor. We soaked the dried porcinis in beef stock for 10 minutes to reconstitute them, then drained and rinsed them, saving the stock for later.
While the porcinis were soaking, I worked on prepping the creminis by removing their stems and gills and cutting them into 1/2 inch pieces. It was slightly tedious, but I got through it.
As I was prepping the mushrooms, Kevin put some pancetta in a skillet and crisped it up.
Once the fat was rendered from the pancetta (YUM!), the mushrooms were added, along with chopped garlic and tomato paste. We cooked this down for a bit and then added a can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, and their juices.
Then, we added the beef stock that the porcinis had been soaked in. The sauce simmered for 20 minutes until thickened.
We served the sauce with fettuccine, parmesan, and parsley. Let me tell you about this sauce: Whoa. It packs a super meaty punch! The recipe in Cook’s Illustrated calls for chicken stock and portobello cap mushrooms, which would result in a lighter sauce with a meatier mushroom component. We had just cooked with portobellos and had beef stock on hand, so we adapted the recipe and ended up with a dark, intensely flavorful sauce. We both thought the adaptations were a wise choice. I was worried about how the leftover sauce would keep due to the tannic nature of mushrooms, but when Kevin reheated it the next day it was just as delicious as it was the night before!
Quick Mushroom Ragu
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 c. low sodium beef stock (or chicken stock/broth for a lighter sauce)
4 oz pancetta, cut into 1/2 in pieces
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms (or 2 large portobello caps)
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves
1 T. tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes
Heat up the beef stock in a small saucepan, then pour it into a bowl over the porcinis. Soak for 10 minutes, then drain through a strainer lined with a coffee filter, saving the stock. Rinse the porcinis well and finely chop. While the porcinis are soaking, trim the stems from the creminis, remove the gills, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat pancetta in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Add creminis, porcini, olive oil, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally, until all liquid has evaporated and tomato paste starts to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add reserved stock and tomatoes, crushing them with your hands, and the tomato juice from the can. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened, 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve sauce over pasta and freshly grated parmesan cheese.