It’s Mushroom Week at Milk Street! And I’m celebrating these earthy forest fungi with a recipe that puts the focus on mushrooms. No meat involved. I approached this subject with trepidation, as I’m not one to forgo meat for vegetables. Ever. But, in the spirit of Mushroom Week, I suspended my disbelief. One quick search of the book and I found my winner: Tagliatelle with Mushroom Ragù.
Lesson 4: Mushroom Ragù
Guiding Rule: Mushrooms actually can satisfy an omnivore.
I needed to do some research to wrap my head around why mushrooms are such a common meat replacement in vegetarian dishes. It's easy to slide a grilled a portobello on a bun and call it a "burger," but we don't cut corners here at Milk Street. The key to making a mushroom dish that hits all the rich, deep and satisfying flavors provided by meat? One word: Umami.
A hot button word, umami is the intense, rich savory flavor present in meat, especially grilled or cured. It’s also in a lot of non-meats, including tomatoes, mushrooms, Parmesan and seaweed, plus fermented or cured products, like pickles and kimchi. Umami-rich ingredients (we call them “umami bombs”) are secret weapons in the vegetarian pantry and mushrooms pack in umami in spades.
Dried mushrooms, particularly woodsy porcini, have a concentrated savory flavor that can boost the umami in your dishes, vegetarian or not. In the case of this ragù, dried porcini are hydrated and chopped (the soaking water is saved for an extra punch of flavor), then combined with fresh mushrooms, which add both savoriness and a hefty, chewy texture to help the dish feel substantial.
For two additional hits of umami, store-bought mushroom broth (or vegetable broth) and a dash of soy sauce will enhance the savoriness even more. All of this umami was well and good, but my skepticism remained. Would this be substantial enough for dinner? Satisfying enough? Only one way to find out!
Step 1: Gather the ingredients
Step 2: Rehydrate the Mushrooms
Step 3: Pulse the Mushrooms
Step 4: Build the sauce
Step 5: Continue to Build the Flavor
Step 6: Cook the Pasta and Plate
For more Mushroom Week content, learn how to grow your own lion's mane at home; Watch Rosemary Gill make smoky "pulled" portobello mushroom sandwiches; And let Wes Martin teach you the proper way to clean mushrooms.
Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest.
And if you're looking for more Milk Street, check out our livestream cooking classes with our favorite chefs, home cooks and friends for global recipes, cooking methods and more.