You will not believe how DELICIOUS this Mushroom Ragu recipe is. I created this recipe with the intent to mimic a classic ground beef ragu, and I'm honestly surprised at how well this turned out. I topped it off with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and an almond/parmesan/cilantro crumble and *mwuah* chefs kiss!
While you do not have to be vegan to enjoy this recipe, it is perfect if you are looking for ways to decrease your meat consumption without sacrificing taste. Whether it is for environmental or health reasons, there has been an increasing trend of plant-based eating (remember, plant-based just means eating more plants! It doesn't necessarily mean vegetarian or vegan).
Did you know that mushrooms are a plant source of vitamin D?
Mushrooms, like humans, can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to UV rays (crazy right?!). However, most commercially grown mushrooms are grown in the dark so very little vitamin D is present. To increase vitamin D content in mushrooms, you can expose the gill side to sunlight for at least 30-60 minutes prior to cooking. Most of us do not get enough daily vitamin D, as it is hard to get enough through food and even harder to get enough through sun exposure! In Vancouver, where we are located on the equator, we are only making vitamin D from sun exposure around 4 months out of the year. AND that is also assuming we are butt-naked without any sunscreen on for the peak hours of sunlight every day! So it is safe to conclude that adding dietary vitamin D where we can is essential.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (remember, the fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins "ADEK"), therefore it is less susceptible to heat and is best absorbed when consumed with dietary fats. Oyster mushrooms are also a good source of potassium, riboflavin, copper, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, and niacin.
About the ingredients
King oyster mushrooms
Although any mushrooms will do (cremini, shiitake, regular button mushrooms), king oyster mushrooms work best for this recipe due to its meaty stalk and umami flavour. As you can see on the right, those stalks are huge!
This is a must-have in your pantry. Tomato paste is basically a super concentrated tomato sauce made by reducing tomato sauce until a thick paste is achieved. The benefits of using tomato paste is that it gives any dish a deep tomato flavour without excess water. If you don't have any fresh or canned tomatoes on hand, you can substitute with extra tomato paste and dilute it with water or stock.
This imparts extra flavour into the sauce. The alcohol will evaporate and leave behind delicious flavours. Make sure to use a cheap red wine because why use the good stuff when you can drink it?!
Some notes and ideas before you start...
To make the process so much easier, use a food processor to chop everything. Honestly, who has the time and patience to mince a bunch of mushrooms? Those king oyster mushrooms were huge and I promise it will save you sooo much time. Just chop them up into smaller pieces and blitz them until they mimic the size of ground beef.
For the perfect pasta topper, blend together a handful of almonds, handful of parmesan (or nutritional yeast) and handful of cilantro (or parsley).
SAVE YOUR PASTA WATER! (This applies to every pasta recipe!) Add ~1/2-3/4 cup of pasta water when you mix the pasta with the sauce. It won't dilute the sauce but instead, the starchy water will help 'glue' the sauce and pasta together as well as thicken it.
For added protein and fibre, you can substitute regular pasta for whole grain pasta or chickpea pasta!