Vegetarian cooking – pasta with mushroom ragu

I made mushroom ragu last night. It’s a great way to eat a substantial Italian meal and still maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. I try to eat vegetarian meals during the week, leaving chicken and turkey (and very rarely pork) for the weekends. I’ve stopped eating red meat so the mushroom is a great way to have the meaty taste in ragu without the actual meat.

Pasta with mushroom ragu – serving for two

  • 8 oz. of mushrooms, sliced – I like baby bella and suggest you do the same. white button mushrooms are kinda eh.
  • 1/4 of a large white onion, chopped finely
  • 1 shallot, chopped finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced finely
  • 1/2 of a large red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1/4 oz. of dried porcini
  • 1 cup of vegetable broth (or chicken broth or beef broth, depending on taste)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tbl of tomato paste
  • dried Italian seasonings – to taste – I like a healthy pinch
  • 2 tbl of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of dry red wine
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbl of butter (I used Land O’ Lakes that’s cut with canola oil, which means it has a lot less fat and cholesterol, but it’s still butter
  • 2 tbl of olive oil
  • 3  cups of dried pasta – penne is good because the sauce gets into the hollow inside.

You’ll need a pot for the pasta and you’ll need a large saucepan or a Dutch oven for the sauce – I use a great Dutch oven that I got a couple Christmases ago – I love it and cook with it all the time.

So, put the porcini mushrooms into the cup of water and microwave on high for about 30 seconds. Set aside. Heat the butter and oil in your saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the red pepper flakes, and throw in the onion, shallot, and garlic. Stir continuously so that the garlic doesn’t burn, and so that the onion doesn’t brown. You want the onion to be translucent and softened. This will take about 6 to 8 minutes. Take the porcini mushroom and chop into small pieces. Set the mushroom broth aside. Throw the baby bella mushroom and the porcini into the saucepan and stir continuously. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If you’re using salt in your dish (I don’t cook with salt), drop a pinch to draw out the mushroom’s moisture. Stir and cook over the medium-high heat. You’ll see that the mushroom slices will shrink and cook down. Raise the heat to high and let the mushrooms brown and create a fond on the bottom of the pan – you have to be careful that you don’t burn the the mushrooms, so keep an eye – the bottom of the pan should be brown not black. Create a well in the middle of the vegetables and add the tomato paste and stir toasting the paste – you don’t want a raw tomatoey taste. Throw in the chopped red pepper and stir. The tomato paste will add a deep red hue to the fond – again, make sure you don’t burn. If it’s starting to get too dark, start adding the broth (either the mushroom or the veggie broth) and stir, scraping the browned bits – this will make for a rich sauce. Add the rest of your broth and the wine and stir and let come to a boil, and then lower to low heat and let it simmer for about 20, 25 minutes. I uncover it so that the sauce will have a chance to thicken. Stir and make sure that it doesn’t get too dry – if you see that the is overcooking, add a little bit more broth.

After about 20 minutes, you sauce should be thick and muddy with a deep red appearance. Add the Italian seasonings and grind fresh pepper and stir. Lower the heat to just “heat” to keep the sauce warm.

Cook the pasta according to the package’s directions, though I always shave a minute off – I like pasta to be al dente.

Before you spoon the sauce onto the pasta, add the sour cream and mix thoroughly. Spoon over the pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Oh, and enjoy.

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