A vegetarian take on a much loved Italian classic, Ragu. Letting the  pasta marry with the mushroom sauce for the final few minutes of cooking time really does bring this dish to life, finishing with creamy Crème fraîche and 24 month aged parmesan cheese gives it that Moorish quality. Only using the best quality ingredients available, as is the case with all great Italian cooking.

Preparation time: 15 Minutes   Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes   Serves: 2    Dish Seasonality: Autumn/Winter
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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Stick Celery, finely diced
  • 2 Shallots, finely diced
  • 1 Garlic clove, finely diced
  • 250 g Mushroom very finely diced
  • 150 ml Red wine (Preferably Shiraz)
  • 450 ml Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Chopped flat leave parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. Crème fraîche
  • 1 Tbsp. Grated 24 month old parmesan cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • Shaved Parmesan & chopped parsley to garnish
  • 200 g Italian Penne pasta

Tips and Tricks: If you have ever made mushroom Duxelle before then you will know how finely to chop the mushrooms, if not cut them into thin slices then chop as you do any herb until they are about 2mm in size. Getting the 24 month old parmesan allows you to get that intense flavour with not as much quantity, add more if your parmesan is not as old or vice versa if you managed to get hold of some that is older :). Make sure your mushrooms are very firm to the touch and dry, this indicates freshness, something very important for this dish.

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Method
  1. In a heavy based pan sweat the shallot and celery in the oil over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Ensuring that they do not colour.
  2. place in the garlic and sweat for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Put in the mushrooms and fry until all the moisture has evaporated, season with salt and pepper. Add the red wine to the mushrooms, bring to a boil, then simmer until the wine has reduced by half (Approx. 5 minutes).
  4.  Pour in the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Simmer on a low heat for approx. 30 minutes, or until thick and rich. Add more water if it gets to dry.
  5. When the sauce is 10 minutes from being complete, cook the pasta 2 minutes less than the packet instructions (I cooked mine for 7 minutes).
  6. Drain the pasta using a colander, reserving the pasta water for later.
  7. Add the chopped parsley to the sauce and stir well. Add the pasta along with 1 ladle of pasta water to begin with, bring the sauce to a boil and cook the pasta for the remaining 2 minutes of cooking time, adding more pasta water if necessary.
  8. Stir in the Crème fraîche and parmesan, if necessary, simmer for longer or add more pasta water to achieve a perfect creamy consistency. Taste, add more salt and pepper if required.
  9. Serve garnished with chopped parsley and parmesan shavings.

Tips and Tricks: From experience the absolute key to any pasta dish is the cooking of the pasta to a perfect Al dente, as well as the consistency of your sauce. You want the sauce in this case to be runny but still have that clingy quality that allows you to have a bit of sauce with every bite (A good bolognaise sauce is a good reference). Taste your pasta while it is cooking so you know how far away it is,  you’ll cook perfect pasta every time. Serve immediately to retain that much loved al dente bite.

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