This is a luxurious vegetarian version of a forest mushroom sugo or ragu. I know, the words “luxurious” and vegetarian are rarely heard in conjunction, but this dish fits the bill.
If the idea of a vegetarian dish puts you off, I would suggest adding a little guanciale, pancetta or bacon, cut into batons and added to the sauce. But really, it doesn’t need it.
Like all good sugos, this sauce needs tending. You want the sauce to begin to caramelize and stick on the bottom of the pot before adding more liquid. I do this three times before letting it simmer down permanently.
I use wild spring porcinis from Oregon in this recipe, but you could use any mushroom, really. The flavor will not be the same, but I’d use brown mushrooms or shiitake or morels any day. A cheaper alternative would be to use a packet of dried porcinis and some fresh button mushrooms. You can buy all kinds of fresh and dried mushrooms online at Earthy Delights.
Like most pasta sauces, this one is better the next day.
What do I serve it over? In this case, a hand-cut tagliatelle with barley flour added; this gives the dish more heft and the earthiness goes well with the porcini. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, look for whole wheat pasta in the store — but no babies will die if you use regular pasta.
This recipe makes enough for 8-10 servings.
- 4 ounces dried porcini
- 6-10 purple tomatoes, chopped (regular tomatoes are OK)
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups mushroom soaking water
- 1 cup veggie stock (or mushroom or chicken or game)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup minced onions
- 4 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Pecorino or Greek Mizithra cheese for grating
- Soak the dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the mushroom water through a paper towel to remove debris, and save it for later. Chop 2/3 of the mushrooms, leaving any pretty-looking pieces aside whole for later.
- In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until they begin to color on the edges, about 6-10 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and garlic and saute for another 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Mix the tomato paste with the veggie stock.
- Add the white wine to the pot and turn the heat to high. Mix well and bring to a boil. Add the veggie stock-tomato paste mixture. Mix well, scraping the bottom of the pot to get the yummy brown bits up. Turn the heat down to medium-high and let this boil down.
- Mix the fresh tomatoes with a little salt and place in a colander over a bowl to drain.
- When the sauce begins to form a brown crust on the bottom of the pot again, add 1 cup of mushroom stock, and scrape the bits off again. If you want, you can do this one more time and then add the last cup of mushroom water, or you can just add the second cup right away and set the pot to a simmer.
- Whichever you choose, turn the heat down so the sauce is just simmering. Taste for salt and add it as needed. Let this simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is thicker than a stew and has the consistency of a regular tomato sauce.
- When you are nearly ready to serve, add the whole porcinis, the fresh tomatoes and the parsley and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or two to heat through and serve with pecorino cheese on top.
ALSO ALONG THESE LINES…