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June 9th,
written by Loren

My favorite food group, bar none, is meat. I know that’s a distinctly American and distinctly unhealthy predilection, and it’s something I’m focusing on trying to change as I lose weight (down 25 pounds!).  But there is something so satisfying about the look, smell and feel of meat which is so hard to duplicate. Even as I try to add more vegetarian recipes to my repertoire, I  do my find myself noticing the lack of meat in those dishes.  One way I’ve found to try to replace that is by using mushrooms. Mushrooms have a somewhat similar, earthy flavor, and portobellos specifically also have a very meaty, toothsome texture.

This recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen,  makes a fantastic pasta sauce using very little meat, and in a very short amount of time for a ragu. The time you spend caramelizing the tomato paste helps develop very deep and complex flavors without having to spend hours simmering away.

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup of chicken broth or stock

Muir Glen Organic consistently wins the taste tests at America's Test Kitchen, so I stick with that brand.

Muir Glen Organic consistently wins the canned tomato taste tests at America’s Test Kitchen, so I stick with that brand.

4 oz pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 portobello caps, gills and stem removed, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 2lb can of whole peeled tomatoes
Splash of red wine (optional)

First, add your dried porcinis to a bowl, and add the chicken broth. Cover with plastic wrap, poke a few holes to vent, then microwave on high for 1 minute and allow it to steep in the broth for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon, then run the broth through a sieve and coffee filter, set over a bowl to reserve the liquid. Chop the porcinis, and set aside.

Use a spoon to scrape the gills out of 2 large portobello caps, then cut into 1/2 inch dice and set aside.

Pre heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the diced pancetta. Allow the fat to render and the meat to brown for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add  the mushrooms , olive oil, garlic, tomato paste and rosemary and stir to combine. This should be cooked over medium heat for 7 minute or so until the tomato paste begins to caramelize and brown.

Now add the can of tomatoes which you have crushed by  hand, along with either the juice of left in the can, or a splash of red wine, as well as the chicken broth which you rehydrated the mushrooms with. Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low, then allow to thicken for 20 minutes or so. Salt and pepper to taste. You may also need to skim off some fat from the top of the sauce depending on how much rendered out of the pancetta.

Reserve a few tablespoons of the pasta water to thin the sauce to the consistency you desire before serving.

You can garnish your plate with some basil chiffonades and grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigianino if you like. But with or without, you will love this and make it again.

Mushroom Ragu

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