On our recent trip to Italy, we seemed to see fresh porcini mushrooms everywhere we went during our week in Tuscany. Since we love porcini, we planned to make this pasta with a sausage porcini ragu the following week once our family arrived and we were all in Umbria together at the farmhouse. Unfortunately, we never found any fresh porcini while we were in Umbria, and we finally gave up searching using frozen porcini for this recipe instead which turned out just delicious anyway. It is almost impossible to find fresh porcini in North America, so I am giving a variation to the recipe using portobello mushrooms and a little dried porcini which will give just about the same flavor.
Porcini, or Boletus edulis, are perhaps Italy’s favorite mushroom. Of meaty texture, with a full bodied earthy flavor, they can be found as large as a foot across. When in season, generally in the fall, this king of mushrooms is celebrated by cooking it in homes and restaurants across Italy in a myriad of ways. The larger caps are often grilled, or sliced and breaded deep fried. The smaller ones can be found in stews, sauces for pasta and meats, fried as a side dish or even fresh in salads. Out of season, dried porcini are readily available, with a rich, earthy flavor unlike any other mushroom. This dried version adds a whole new dimension to sauces and soups.
This meaty ragu seems to improve with a longer cooking time, so leave plenty of time for preparation. Although we used pici, a traditional Tuscan pasta that is a round long pasta similar to spaghetti, this sauce would work well on just about any pasta long or short. It would also be a great topping for creamy polenta. As a general rule, grated cheese is not served on mushroom based pasta sauces but we like it with our pasta so I am including it in the recipe.
Variation: If porcini are unavailable, substitute 6 ounces of portobella mushrooms and 1 ounce of dried porcini that have been soaked in 1 1/2 cups of warm water for 20 minutes and then chopped. Strain the mushroom liquid and reserve 1/2 cup. Add the dried chopped mushrooms and soaking water when you add the wine to the sauce.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 6 Ounces Chopped Cleaned Porcini Mushrooms
- 4 Italian Sausage Links, Casing Removed And Finely Chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1/4 Cup Dry Red Wine
- 3 Cups Chopped Italian Tomatoes
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Dash Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Pound Dried Pasta
- 1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and once hot add the onions and fresh mushrooms.
- Cook until the onions are soft and begin to take on color.
- Add the garlic and cook a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the sausage meat and cook until lightly colored, using a spoon to break the sausage meat up into pieces as it cooks.
- Once the sausage has cooked, add the wine and cook until it has almost completely been absorbed.
- Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and stir.
- Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the sauce to a low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- If the sauce begins to get too thick, add a little water to thin.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until it is al dente, then drain.
- Return the pasta to the pot with half of the sauce and combine well.
- Serve in individual pasta bowls with an extra scoop of ragu on each and pass the grated cheese.