Spaghetti with Quick Mushroom Ragu

When I was young we’d have Ragu sauce from a jar poured over spaghetti. If we were really living it up we’d brown some hamburger to simmer with it. For that reason when I see a recipe with the word “Ragu” I’m understandably skeptical. Ragu really refers to a long simmered sauce; meat sauces may need to cook for a couple of hours; mushrooms cook quite a bit faster – about 30-40 minutes total.

Likewise I’ve also evolved in my thinking on what spaghetti looks like. Many Italian restaurants (see Spaghetti Warehouse) serves a plate of noodles covered with a thick blanket of sauce. Now I’m not saying that isn’t good spaghetti; I’m just saying that’s not what all spaghetti looks like.

If you can put aside those misconceptions, you’ll love this dish. I’ve given it the coveted 5 stars.

As I was cleaning out my DVR I ran across a show with a couple of spaghetti recipes from America’s Test Kitchen. One recipe was for Pasta All’Amatriciana which I hope to make in the future.  Maybe because Carla and I have seen a lot of mushrooms on our walks this fall, this recipe for mushrooms and tomatoes caught my attention. You can find a working copy of the recipe here.

A mushroom doubling as a miniature bird bath. (We did NOT use these in the recipe)

The ingredient list is fairly simple and no fancy techniques are required. Four ounces of pancetta, a couple of large portabello mushrooms; one ounce of porcini mushrooms steeped in chicken broth, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, a small can of diced tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste are all that’s required. Top it with some grated pecorino romano cheese.

Simple list of ingredients; live oil aren’t shown. Mushrooms in the bowl are steeping in chicken broth.


Pancetta is browned; other recipes are staged for cooking

After browning the pancetta, add the olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, rosemary andmushrooms and sauté for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms have given up their liquid

Sweat/sauté the first set of ingredients.

Add the tomatoes and reserved mushroom/chicken broth and simmer another 15-20 minutes; towards the end of that time get your spaghetti noodles going.

All the ingredients simmering to develop some depth.

Boil the spaghetti in salted water; reserve a cup of the water before draining. Then put the spaghetti, sauce, and some of the reserved water back in the now empty noodle pot. Toss and serve. Notice that this is not an over-tomatoed wet sauce covering a plate of noodles.

Dinner is served.

This is a terrific, rich dish. My biggest suggestion is don’t use industrial Parmesan cheese; the Pecorino Romano this recipe calls for is rich, salty, and slightly nutty. It really finishes this dish nicely.

I’m not a creative chef but I have learned how to follow recipes. So when I say this is a fantastic recipe, I’m not bragging about my creative prowess; rather, I’m sharing my findings. If you want to impress a loved one or want a nice dinner for a group, try this.

Tom and Nancy, I think you’ll be having some of this when you visit later this month; I have some pancetta left over.

Chicken Rating: ★★★★ 5 out of 5 stars.

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