L’Artusi’s Famous Mushroom Ragu With Fresh Garganelli

October 26, 2018
28 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

My boyfriend and I are long-distance, so we get to see each other about once every three months. When we are together, we like to cook, explore whichever city we’re in (usually Berkeley or New York City, where we each live respectively), and spend a healthy amount of time vegging out on the couch watching Netflix (Chef’s Table, Parks & Rec, you know, the modern classics). While we try not to schedule out our time too strictly, there’s one tradition we’ve yet to break: date night.

We take this quarterly date night very seriously, and spend weeks picking out a restaurant with the right balance of menu options (he's a vegetarian, so there’s got to be at least a few different choices for him), ambience (romantic, not stuffy), and budget (sometimes we splurge, sometimes we keep it low-key). For some reason, we always gravitate towards Italian food, and that helps narrow down our choices.

Past winners have included Acquerello in San Francisco (a very worth-it splurge) and Lilia in Brooklyn (excellent and wonderfully priced), but there’s one dish I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since one date night from about a year ago: the mushroom ragu with garganelli at L’Artusi in New York City’s West Village.

Tubular little bites of fresh garganelli pasta wrapped in a creamy, luxurious sauce of nothing-but-mushroom flavor. At the same time, it was meaty and hearty, filling enough to make me ignore the buttery cacio e pepe sitting across the table—and my boyfriend. The cherry on top of the ragu: a generous layer of shaved ricotta salata, a dried, salted ricotta cheese.

It was love at first bite. I immediately wanted to know the secrets behind its silky texture, mushroomy goodness, and—whoa—completely vegetarian ingredients list. Surely, there must be some complicated technique or sneaky component hiding within the recipe. After 379 or so odd days (but who’s counting?) after tasting, and subsequently dreaming, about this ragu, I finally tracked down L’Artusi’s executive chef, Joe Vigorito, to lift the curtain.

The formula behind this decades-old recipe, he revealed, is shockingly simple—and will probably never, ever change. It’s been on the menu from the beginning, and if it ever leaves, “there would probably be an uprising,” he said. But because “there are no bells and whistles, you’ve got to get everything right.”

Here are a few of his tips for recreating L’Artusi’s famous mushroom ragu at home:

- Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel. Instead of rinsing the mushrooms in water, simply brush them off with a paper towel to get rid of any dirt. “With this recipe, you’re trying to concentrate all that flavor and evaporate any water possible,” Chef Vigorito said, and dousing the mushrooms in water doesn’t help that process.
- Don’t burn the tomato paste. The tomato paste is essential to bringing depth and complexity to the flavors in this dish, but it can be tricky to work with. “Tomato paste has a tendency to burn really, really easily, so you have to continually stir it to make sure that you’re still developing that flavor, but that it’s not just scorching at the bottom,” he explains.
- Make sure the heavy cream is at room temperature. You’ve probably done this before (I sure have): You pull the heavy cream straight out of the fridge and toss it right into the pan only to have it curdle. When prepping the recipe, like when you’re making the fresh pasta, pull the cream out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter. According to Chef, “You want it to kind of be up to room temperature, so that you’re not shocking it” when you add it.
- Fresh garganelli is great, but dried pasta works, too. I get it, making fresh pasta from scratch isn’t always in the cards, so don’t feel bad about using dried pasta in this recipe. Chef Vigorito recommends penne or orecchiette, but added that any kind of short pasta would work.
- Add a splash of mushroom stock at the end. At L’Artusi, they always finish this pasta with a splash of mushroom stock just before serving. You don’t have to do this, but it does add a nice touch. Making the stock is simple: Take the ends of the cremini mushroom stems and cook them down with a little bit of water. Tossing in a little bit of this stock is also a great way to reconstitute the ragu if you want to serve it the next day. —Erin Alexander

What You'll Need
  • For the garganelli:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • For the mushroom ragu:
  • 2 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 dash salt, plus more if needed
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pinch red chili flakes, plus 1 pinch, divided
  • 1 cup dry white cooking wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • Shaved ricotta salata, for serving
  1. For the garganelli:
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. Set aside pasta in a fridge, or freeze if being cooked on another day.
  1. For the mushroom ragu:
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. Add heavy cream. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. 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.
  8. While the pastas cooks, keep the ragu over low heat. When al dente, remove the pasta and add it to the sauce.
  9. 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.
  10. Serve in warm bowls; sprinkle shaved ricotta salata on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • panania
  • velvet.onion
  • daisybrain
  • pnd1974
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque

19 Reviews

Ethyl August 4, 2023
A delicious and sexy date night pasta sauce, but you gotta give it TIME! Time for the tomato paste, time for the mushrooms, time for the wine. Don't just go by the times listed in the recipe, let the mushrooms go for as long as they need!

PS -- it's tomato *paste,* not *passata.* It may explain some of the gloopiness some other folks had.
panania December 11, 2022
I tried this recipe twice (I always try a recipe twice before leaving a review). The first time it came out soupy and the mushroom to pasta ratio was way off. There was way more mushrooms than pasta. Now, I used a pound of rigatoni, because I couldn't find garganelli here, but I don't think that made a difference. Maybe my heat wasn't as high as it should have been, don't know. All I know is it wasn't great. Second time, I bought the right pasta, and I halved the mushrooms, wine and cream. Not only it play as described in the recipe, but it was great. I may not have used the right amount of passata (because it wasn't as red as it is pictured) but it was great. A lot of work, but great.
mac October 22, 2021
I only made the sauce and opted for boxed pasta. The ragu is easy enough to make if not a tad time consuming, though I must confess I am tad bit slow at cooking. As for the taste, I think this is better suited to people who LOVE mushrooms, as opposed to people who are more casual mushroom consumers. No shade to the creator, as I imagine it is a well crafted recipe. I just don't really jive with the flavor profile. It definitely crosses over into that rich beef stroganoff-sour cream territory. If you have a constant craving for truffle oil then this is the recipe for you!
peppersandeggs October 20, 2021
"Cooking Wine"? Seriously?
Stefie K. April 27, 2019
This pasta recipe tastes exactly like the dish at L'Artusi -- I was so impressed with how few ingredients were required to pack in such concentrated flavor! I used 1/2-pound of dry garganelli pasta for 3-4 servings, freezing the remainder of the sauce for another day. The key is in the ricotta salata -- definitely enhances the creamy, salty, and nuttiness of the dish.
jayaymeye March 26, 2019
This pasta was really good, but the only circumstance in which this can be done start to finish in 1 hour 45 minutes is if you don't make the pasta. The homemade pasta was good, but as is typical with garganelli, takes forever to make. I think it took me 2.5 hours to make the pasta alone.

That said, following the directions closely and really cooking down the mushrooms makes a really tasty ragù. I might make that part again. The pasta, though, would be fine if it were dried penne or the like.
velvet.onion December 3, 2018
This had the consistency of hummus in the end. And pretty muddy looking. I get the flavor profile. Promising, but kind of just turned into a gloppy mess.
daisybrain November 8, 2018
I am so totally making this. Any thoughts on adding a package of dried porcinis and using the liquid along with the deglazing wine. I'm gonna do it.
Emma L. November 8, 2018
Personally, I don't think dried mushrooms are necessary here. Since they're an expensive ingredient, I try to save them for when I'll really appreciate their flavor. And the sauce is already super rich and mushroomy :)
Betsy November 1, 2018
Do you add the mushroom stock in place of the pasta water or as well as?
Fatemah R. October 28, 2018
Sounds really good. The recipe talks about putting the chopped mushrooms in but when do the quartered mushrooms go in?
Stephen L. October 28, 2018
jcasare November 15, 2018
hy in the world would I bother quartering mushrooms before putting them in a blender?
Rebtile January 6, 2019
I tried just putting them into the food processor whole and they're so light, plus there's no other liquid to weigh them down in there, that they just bounced off the blades in perpetuity. Seriously, I've never had such a hard time pureeing anything in my whole life. Quartering them first would've saved me so much grief!
pnd1974 October 26, 2018
if dry pasta is substituted, how much should I use?
Thank you
Erin A. October 26, 2018
I haven't tried it with dried pasta yet, but a standard 1 pound box should do the trick! If you think that's not enough, you could start by making 1 1/2 pounds pasta, then incorporate the pasta into the sauce bit by bit until you get the pasta-sauce ratio you like. You can save the clean, leftover cooked pasta in a ziploc bag for another day.
Emma L. November 4, 2018
Hi! Made a batch of the sauce last night and used about 1/3 for 1/2 pound of pasta; froze the rest in two portions for future pasta nights!
Emma L. November 4, 2018
(Oops, if unclear: 1/2 pound of dried pasta. I used penne.)
Emma L. October 26, 2018
Soooooo good!!!