The Absolute Best Pasta Sauce for Mushroom-Lovers

published May 19, 2022
Wild Mushroom Ragu Recipe
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Credit: Leela Cyd Ross / Clarkson Potter

In my house, pasta reigns as king of dinner, thanks to my husband’s Italian heritage and strong affinity for all things al dente. Pasta is perhaps the only thing, then, that can beat out his other love: mushrooms. Give him all the rich, meaty, savory mushrooms — and preferably over pasta. So when Sara Kate (this site’s cofounder) and I were writing our cookbook a few years ago, and Sara Kate proposed this wild mushroom ragù, it was an instant yes from me.

This is truly the ultimate pasta sauce for mushroom-lovers. It starts with that ultimate pantry staple: dried porcini mushrooms. When you soak dried mushrooms like these you get two goodies: the reconstituted delicious mushrooms themselves, but also their broth-like soaking liquid, which goes to use here in this recipe.

Sara Kate directs us to cook the powerhouse flavor-bomb of these porcini mushrooms with more easily found wild mushrooms (or plain white mushrooms, if that’s what you have). She employs some of the techniques of a traditional meat ragù: cooking the sauce down repeatedly with red wine, tomato paste, and other layering flavor-boosters. The result is an absolutely spectacular sauce, with mushroom flavor for days on end.

Wild Mushroom Ragu Recipe

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour

Makes about 4 cups sauce

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 cup

    water

  • 1/2 ounce

    dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion

  • 4

    medium shallots

  • 1 pound

    small, fresh wild mushrooms

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh thyme

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 2 tablespoons

    double-concentrated tomato paste (from a tube)

  • 1/2 cup

    dry red wine

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium vegetable, chicken, or beef broth, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated, or 1/3 cup store-bought grated)

  • 8 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds

    dried pasta, cooked according to package directions (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 1 cup water and 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 cup) in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mushrooms stand for 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, dice 1/2 medium yellow onion (about 1/2 cup). Dice 4 medium shallots (about 1/2 cup). Slice 1 pound small, fresh wild mushrooms 1/4-inch thick. Finely chop 3 garlic cloves with a pinch of kosher salt, occasionally smashing the garlic against the cutting board with the flat part of the knife, until a paste forms. Pick the leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs until you have 1 teaspoon.

  3. When the mushrooms are ready, strain through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a paper towel or a coffee filter set over a bowl. Trim off any tough bits, then coarsely chop the porcinis. Wipe the saucepan dry.

  4. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, shallots, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook until the onion and shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic paste, porcinis, fresh mushrooms, thyme, and another pinch of kosher salt. Stir to combine. Cover and cook for 3 minutes more, shaking the pan a few times.

  5. Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium high. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until all the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Push everything to the sides of the pan. Add 2 tablespoons double-concentrated tomato paste into the empty space and mash it into the pan for a minute or so, allowing it to caramelize. Stir the paste into the mushrooms.

  6. Pour in 1/2 cup dry red wine wine and stir constantly until evaporated. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan slightly every few minutes.

  7. Pour in the remaining mushroom soaking liquid and another 1/2 cup of the broth. Cook uncovered for 10 to 30 minutes more, occasionally stirring the sauce and adding more broth a tablespoon at a time to keep the mushrooms moist. The sauce is ready when the mushrooms are tender and the liquid is thickened.

  8. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup firmly packed, or use 1/3 cup store-bought grated). Pick the leaves from 8 fresh parsley sprigs and coarsely chop (about 3 tablespoons).

  9. When the ragu is ready, taste and season with black pepper as needed. If desired, toss with freshly cooked rigatoni or other sturdy pasta shape. Garnish with the Parmesan and parsley.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Reprinted with permission from The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand; copyright © 2014. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.