Mushroom Ragù Bolognese
Ragù which is derived from the French word ‘ragoût’ roughly means “to awaken the appetite.” The French nobility were probably first to create ragout as a savory stew rich with generous chunks of meat. Marriage between French and Italian nobility began the exchange of cuisines. When Italian country folks of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region, known for its outstanding dairy and meat products, began to prepare a ragù, meat was scarce, therefore the meat was ground and became a sauce for pasta rather than a one-pot dish. Ragù Bolognese truly will awaken the palate of a hungry crowd. Find the recipe for this meat-based recipe in the book Sharing the Table on page 50.
“Umami” is a savory taste sensation that is incredibly rich and luscious. It is found in meats, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, tomatoes and mushrooms to name a few. To be able to keep the “umami” rich flavor of the original recipe for Ragù Bolognese and turn it into a plant-based recipe, ingredients must be substituted which is done in the following recipe. As I tested the recipe I realized that I had really stumbled on to a similar texture and close flavor. It certainly met the standard for a high umami factor. Do not be afraid of the tofu as it is well disguised in mushroom powder and adds the needed protein that would otherwise be lacking in this main dish. To go totally vegan, use almond or coconut milk in place of the whole milk and skip the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (darn!!!). Give it a try, I think you will like it.
1 large onion, peeled, cut into small pieces (about 1 ¼ pounds)
2 stalks celery, trimmed, cut into small pieces (about 4 ounces)
2 carrots, peeled, cut into small pieces (about ½ pound)
1 pound Baby Bella mushrooms
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
2 ½ cups mushroom broth
1 or 2 pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind (optional)
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained (sprouted if possible)
several pieces of dried porcini mushrooms to make 1 tablespoon powder
1 cup whole milk (coconut or almond milk for vegan)
to taste, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional garnish)
1. Pulsate the onions, celery and carrots in a food processor until finely chopped. Remove and pulsate mushrooms until coarsely ground.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot. Sauté the chopped vegetables until they are translucent and soft.
3. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Sauté, stirring for a few minutes over medium.
4. Mix the wine, nutmeg and tomato paste together until smooth. Deglaze the pan with this mixture. Add the mushroom stock and optional Parmigiano Reggiano rind.
5. Turn the heat down very low. A range top simmer plate would be helpful here. Partially cover.
6. While this is simmering, squeeze dry the tofu and crumble it into small pieces. Take several pieces of dry porcini mushrooms and grind them to a powder in either a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Sprinkle over the tofu and toss to incorporate. Leave at room temperature.
7. Simmer slowly for one-and-a-half to two hours adding a few tablespoons of milk occasionally until all the milk is incorporated.
8. Add the mushroom dusted tofu. Discard the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind before seasoning.
9. Taste, Think, Transform with salt and/or pepper.
10. Serve on a bed of cooked organic pappardelle. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese if desired.