I first discovered this mushroom ragu on a date night with my boyfriend at L’Artusi in New York City’s West Village. It was love at first bite. Fresh garganelli pasta gets wrapped in a silky, luxurious sauce of almost-pureed mushrooms, cream, tomato paste, a dry white cooking wine, and chili flakes. It’s meaty and hearty, yet filling enough to make you ignore every other dish on the table—and maybe even your date. And it’s 100% vegetarian.
After chatting with L’Artusi’s executive chef, Joe Vigorito, I also learned that it’s astonishingly easy to make at home. But because it’s so simple, he explained, “you’ve got to get everything right.” A few tips, straight from chef Vigorito: Continually stir the tomato paste so that it doesn’t burn; don’t rinse the mushrooms in water, just clean them with a paper towel; and don’t fret about the wine, any super-dry variety will work just fine. On top of that, if making fresh garganelli doesn’t fit into your time frame, a dried penne or orecchiette would also work well. —Erin Alexander
2 1/2 pounds
cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
extra-virgin olive oil
large Spanish onion, diced
salt, plus more if needed
red chili flakes, plus 1 pinch, divided
dry white cooking wine
butter, cut into small pieces
Shaved ricotta salata, for serving
In This Recipe
For the garganelli:
Place flour, eggs, and extra-virgin olive oil in a food processor. Process until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove dough. Divide into 4 pieces. Dust each piece with flour. Roll through pasta machine at the thickest setting. Repeat this process gradually decreasing the number setting. Stop when the dough has finished the second to last setting.
Cut the dough into 1 1/2 x 1 1/2-inch squares. Roll each square diagonally over a dowel, chopstick, or finger. Press to seal at the end of the square. Lay out on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or wax paper dusted with semolina flour. Continue until all the pasta has been formed into little "quills.”
Set aside pasta in a fridge, or freeze if being cooked on another day.
For the mushroom ragu:
In a food processor, chop a few mushrooms at a time until they are all finely chopped (almost pureed; they will look like mush). Periodically scrape down the sides of the food processor.
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and season generously with salt. Once onions are soft and slightly caramelized, add tomato paste and pinch red chili flakes. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The paste should caramelize slightly but not burn.
Add chopped mushrooms. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (This will look like a wet mess at first. Over time, the liquid will cook off, and the mushrooms will take on a dark, caramelized color.)
Add wine to deglaze. Scrape bottom of pot to remove any stuck-on mushroom bits. Stir constantly and cook until mixture is dry and wine has completely evaporated.
Add heavy cream. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. The water should taste like the sea. If using fresh garganelli, cook in the boiling salted water for 3 to 5 min. If using dried pasta, cook according to the package instructions.
While the pastas cooks, keep the ragu over low heat. When al dente, remove the pasta and add it to the sauce.
Add pinch red chili flakes, butter, and the Parmesan. Stir to combine. Add 1⁄4 cup pasta water to help emulsify sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve in warm bowls; sprinkle shaved ricotta salata on top.
Erin Alexander is the Assistant Editor of Partner Content at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.