Mushrooms are basically meat. In many regions of the world, especially in Asia, vegetarians commonly refer to mushrooms as meat. Wood ear mushrooms are a good example of this statement.
In today's Italian ragù recipe, Italian brown field mushrooms take the place of meat. A petite soffritto is part of the stewed sauce, just like for a ragù that is made with pork or beef. Fire roasted tomatoes are usually acidic tomatoes, so the soffritto also helps to "sweeten" the sauce.
Many Italians add a splash of red wine to meat sauces to raise the acidity. This helps to tenderize the meat and the wine adds flavor. A splash of red wine was added to this recipe just to create a bold flavor, because mushrooms need no help to become cooked tender. Home made lard is usually used to make meat ragù, but olive oil can be substituted. Olive oil is better for light stewed sauces like today's recipe.
Ragù can be made with no broth if the proportion of meat is high. If a moderate amount of meat is in the sauce, then broth is usually added to increase the flavor. Since mushrooms were used in todays recipe, the choice of broth is a matter of personal choice. Either mushroom broth, vegetable broth, chicken broth or beef broth can be added to a mushroom ragù.
The strict vegetarian readers of this recipe can easily figure out how to convert this recipe to their preference. Dairy product tolerant vegetarian readers can add the cheese, but the the egg garnish can be omitted.
Poached egg are sometimes used to garnish pastas in Italy. I once worked with a Northern Italian chef who garnished a few of his pasta specialties with a poached egg. This chef knew plenty about nutrition, because every time that he garnished a pasta with a poached egg, he pointed to his own eyes. Eggs provide lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to protect the eyes from macular degeneration. The Northern Italian chef wore thick eye glasses, so there was more to the poached egg garnish than what meets the eye.
Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù:
This recipe yields enough for 1 pasta entree!
Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Add 2 cloves of sliced garlic.
Saute till the garlic becomes a golden color.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brunoise diced onion. (Brunoise = 1/8"x1/8"x1/8")
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of brunoise diced carrot.
Add 1 tablespoon of brunoise diced celery.
Briefly saute, till the onions just start to turn clear in color.
Add 1/4 cup of small chopped portobello mushrooms.
Add 1/3 cup of portobello mushroom half slices. (Cut a small portobello in half and then slice.)
Saute till the mushrooms become tender.
Add 1 ounce of dry red wine.
Add 1 1/4 cups of vegetable broth.
Add 1 1/2 cups of canned crushed fire roasted tomatoes.
Add 1 pinch of ground sage.
Add 1 pinch of oregano.
Add 2 pinches of basil.
Add 1 pinch of whole fennel seed.
Add 1 small pinch of nutmeg.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Simmer and reduce, till the sauce become a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.
Add 2 pinches of minced Italian parsley.
Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
Rigatoni with Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù:
Cook 1 portion of Rigatoni Pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.
Just before the pasta finishes cooking, poach 1 egg in gently boiling shallow salted water, in a saute pan, so the yolk remains a bright color.
Drain the water off of the pasta.
Place the pasta in a mixing bowl.
Add enough of the Fire Roasted Tomato and Portobello Ragù to generously coat the pasta and gently toss the ingredients together.
Mound the pasta in a large pasta bowl.
Sprinkle some minced Italian parsley over the pasta.
Sprinkle a few generous pinches of finely grated parmesan cheese over the pasta.
Garnish with a sprig of Italian parsley.
Use a slotted spoon to place the poached egg on to of the pasta. (Trim the loose egg while flash if necessary, so the egg looks nice.)
This pasta actually is heartier than it seems to be. The mushrooms create a rich satisfying flavor that sticks to the ribs. Yum! Ciao Baby! ... Shawna