Think your Ragu has to filled with ground beef? Think again. While traditionally a meat sauce, we’ve developed flavors and textures in this sauce with multiple varieties of mushrooms. Serve a loaf of warm bread to sop up all the saucy goodness of this pasta dish. Use a Parmesan rind in your Ragu, soups, and stews to subtly infuse the dish with the flavors of the cheese. If the rind doesn’t dissolve during the cooking process, you can remove it from the mixture, as instructed in this recipe, or break it up with a fork into small, chewy pieces. While any pasta shape will work with this hearty vegetarian dish, we prefer penne or ziti; these noodles help capture every last bite of the chunky sauce.
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 (8-oz.) pkg. button mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
3 medium portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped, coarsely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 small sweet onion, vertically sliced (about 2 cups)
1 (15-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 (2- x 3-inch) Parmesan cheese rind
1 pound uncooked ziti or penne pasta
1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated with a Microplane grater (about 1 1⁄4 cups)
6 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as basil, parsley, and sage), divided
How to Make It
Heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture has evaporated and mushrooms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add fennel, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are almost tender, about 6 minutes.
Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine, and cook, stirring to release browned bits from bottom of Dutch oven, 1 to 2 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and Parmesan rind; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and keep warm.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high. Add panko, and cook, stirring often, until golden and toasted. Transfer to a bowl, and cool completely, about 10 minutes. Stir in shredded Parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the mixed herbs.
Remove and discard Parmesan rind. Stir remaining 1⁄4 cup mixed herbs into sauce. Divide ziti among serving bowls; top with sauce, and sprinkle with toasted panko.