This recipe has a number of steps and requires some patience. Like any good ragú, this sauce gets most of its flavor and personality from a long, slow cook, at least an hour if you can swing it. Do not be deterred. The sauce will pay it forward in spades with deep layers of flavor. It’s perfectly suitable for a quiet Sunday afternoon amidst a mountain of laundry waiting to be folded and a pile of e-mails waiting for responses.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms, preferably porcini, soaked in 1 cup boiling water
- 2 pounds cremini or baby bella mushrooms, rinsed, 1 pound quartered, ½ pound minced in the Cuisinart
- 1 large or 2 small shallots, minced (you can use a food processor for the shallots, carrots and celery if you prefer)
- 1 large carrot, minced
- 2 stalks celery, minced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce can tomatoes
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 Parmesan rinds
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Bouquet garni of 2 sprigs rosemary, 4 sprigs thyme and 2 bay leaves
Using a food processor or Cuisinart, pulse the shallots, carrot, and celery to fine pieces. Set aside. Add ½ pound of rinsed mushrooms and soaked porcinis and pulse to fine pieces. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium-size rondeau over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add half the quartered mushrooms. Let the mushrooms sear for several minutes before jostling them gently and adding a big pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Stir gently to evenly sear, adjusting the heat as needed so the bottom of the pan doesn’t scorch. Once the mushrooms are almost evenly seared, add a tablespoon of butter and stir to evenly coat. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the same pot and repeat with the rest of the quartered mushrooms.
Once all the quartered mushrooms are seared, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and sear the minced mushrooms. Sear until evenly browned, then scoop out of the pan and set aside with the seared quartered mushrooms.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the over medium-low heat along with the vegetables. Sweat the vegetables until softened, about 10 minutes, scraping up the mushroom fond with a wooden spoon. After 3 or 4 minutes, season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat to medium and add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze any lingering bits of fond. Add the tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and mix well. Add mushroom tea and enough water so that the vegetables are nearly entirely submerged in liquid.
Simmer over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the milk, bouquet garni, and Parmesan rinds. Reduce again by half until the sauce is nicely thickened.
Once the ragu is the right consistency, finish by stirring in one tablespoon of butter.
This ragu freezes beautifully. If you are freezing it, thaw it in the fridge overnight before you need to use it, then reheat slowly and mount in another pad of butter before serving.