This is a rich and hearty dish that derives its great flavor from the porcini mushroom. Native to the Alpine region of Italy and France porcinis have a very distinct aroma and taste. They are readily available dried and are easily re-hydrated by soaking them in water. Though the soaking liquid is often discarded; I will often save it flavor my stocks.
Porcinis make this pasta dish rich & tasty; so much so you will easily forget it's a meatless meal. Aside from soaking the mushrooms, the pasta comes together rather quickly yet appears like you spent hours in the kitchen cooking.
Pasta with Mushroom Ragu
(adapted from Mario Batali)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, finely chopped
1/4 pound porcinin mushroom, re-hydrated & chopped
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
1/2 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until smoking. Add the onions and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, until onions are light golden brown. Add the mushroom pieces and continue cooking until they have given up most of their water, about 9 to10 more minutes. Add the wine and the tomato sauce, butter and salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 more minutes, until mixture is of a ragu consistency.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water, and add the pasta to the ragu. Toss over high heat one minute to coat the pasta. Divide the pasta evenly among four warmed pasta bowls, grate Parmigiano over and serve immediately.
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
Yield: 4 cups
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt, to taste
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.