Tuscan porcini pasta ragu
Makes 6 servings
This is a rich, satisfying ragu sauce, made meaty with porcini mushrooms. The fresh mushrooms are difficult to find, but hydrating the more readily available dried ones will yield the same texture and woodsy, full-bodied flavor. Here the sauce is served over spinach fettucine, and it's also delicious over polenta.
For the sauce
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups hot, but not boiling, water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup Sangiovese or other medim-bodied, high-acid red wine
One 15-ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
For the pasta
12 ounces spinach fettuccine
To complete the recipe
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
To make the sauce, put the mushrooms in a small bowl. Add the hot water and soak until the mushrooms are softened, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic; stir constantly for about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms from the water. Thoroughly rinse in a strainer, then pat dry. Halve the mushrooms if they are very large; set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter; set aside.
Return the sauté pan to medium heat. Add the mushrooms and wine; simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates, about 4 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the reserved mushroom liquid, the tomatoes (with juice), salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, until the most of the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Drain well.
When the sauce is done, stir in the parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, spoon the sauce over fettucine in individual pasta bowls. Sprinkle with pepper and garnish generously with Parmesan.
Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.