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Wild mushroom ragout with ziti

Updated: Mar 5, 2023

Let’s start with what is a ragout versus a ragu is. After all, we pronounce them the same. A ragu is a slow-cooked Italian pasta sauce which usually contains meat and is served exclusively with pasta. A ragout, on the other hand, is a French-style stew, that may or may not contain meat and can be served with any carbohydrate like pasta, couscous or polenta. However, both are slow-cooked dishes, ones where the flavours from the meat or vegetable are extracted to enhance their flavours. Both dishes take time, take a deep knowledge of concentrating and manipulating flavours and have lots of love. Mushrooms are the best vegetable for a ragout, in my opinion. They hold up to long cooking times and have a deep beautiful flavour that emerges with time. This dish is exactly that and then some. Aromatic, complex deep flavours are heightened by the wonderful pan sautéed garlicky pasta. This is a dish I could eat often.

Admittedly this dish takes time, not hard to make but takes time. The mushrooms are cooked delicately in a homemade porcini (and I added dried shiitakes for added nuances) broth. The pasta is pan-sauteed lightly in I have been fortunate enough to have had dinner at Chez Panisse when David Tanis headed the restaurant. This restaurant with David and a cadre of chefs defined California farm-to-table cuisine, elegant, light and popping with flavours and fresh ingredients. I have his cookbooks and follow his blogs and Insta page, you should too. I love this cookbook, and definitely need to cook more from it!

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the porcini broth:

1 bay leaf

2-3 slices of dried porcini and 2 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 a s,\mall onion, sliced

1 carrot, diced

Salt to taste

For the ragout:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 lbs mushrooms, mixed if possible, crimini, button, oyster, chanterelle or other, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried sage or 1 teaspoon fresh sage

1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes, or to taste

w tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Porcini broth from below

Parmesan cheese

For the pasta:

1 pack of ziti or any small tubular pasta or small pasta with ridges or grooves to catch the sauce

3-4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup parsley, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

To make the porcini broth:

Add all ingredients to a pot and bring to a boil. Gently simmer for 30 minutes. Cool and set aside. Remove the mushrooms and save them for the ragout. Strain the other solids and discard keeping the broth. Can be made and frozen or set in the fridge for 2-3 days.

To make the ragu:

Add the oil to a deep wide pan and sauté the onions on medium heat till browned and well caramelized. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and sauté the mushrooms with salt and pepper on medium-high heat. Generally, the mushrooms will give out water that will eventually dry out and the mushroom will sauté to a rich golden colour, for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the garlic, thyme, sage, chilli flakes, and tomato paste and mix well, saluting for an additional 2-3 minutes. Finely minced the dried mushrooms from the broth and add to the pan. Add back the onions and mix well.

Sprinkle in the flour and stir till the flour is mixed in and coats the mushrooms and is not visible. You should not have or see lumps in the pan. Add the strained broth and mix well. Simmer for about 10 minutes. If the sauce is too thick add some water to thin it. Taste for salt and adjust consistency to a thick rich sauce. Note, this dish tends to thicken as it sits, add a dash of water to thin it out when you reheat it.

To cook the pasta:

Cook the pasta as per the manufacturer's instructions. Remember to leave it "al dante" we do not want them mushy and overcooked. When the pasta is almost ready, add the oil to a flat deep pan and stir-fry the garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. You do not want the garlic to brown, just be cooked through. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water and the drained pasta and parsley. Mix through and cook for 30 seconds, the liquid should have evaporated. Serve immediately.

To serve:

Heat the ragout and ladle to the centre of a large bowl or plate. Surround with the pasta and grate serve immediately with Parmesan cheese on the side for guests to grate on their own.

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