We think mushrooms bring umami in a new way to this vegetarian take on the classic cozy red sauce, perfect for pasta night. If you’d like to add meat to this, we love the addition of sausage or lamb! Just add your meat in after the mushrooms have released their water, and reduce the amount of olive oil by half.
1 pound (450 g) mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or ghee (or 1 tablespoon more olive oil)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine (we like a full-bodied red here)
Red chili flakes, to taste
1 cup (240 ml) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
14 oz. crushed canned tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Hard cheese of your choice (Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, etc.)
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add your mushrooms and a big pinch of salt, and cook, stirring often, until they release their water (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and add oil (and butter if using), onion, carrot, celery, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper and cook until vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, garlic, and rosemary. Stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, until the tomato paste has shed its bright red color and has lost its uncooked taste. Add the wine and red pepper and stir to deglaze the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
Add the broth, tomatoes and thyme, stirring it all together. Cover partially and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, at minimum 25 minutes (for a slower cooked sauce you could leave this on low heat for longer, stirring occasionally and making sure the heat isn’t too high and sauce isn’t burning on the bottom of the pot).
When the sauce is close to desired consistency, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente, and drain.
When sauce has reached your desired consistency, turn off heat and stir in 1/4 cup of grated cheese, if desired. Transfer the pasta to the pot, stirring to coat with the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of the pasta water. Taste for seasoning, and add a squeeze of lemon juice and more salt if needed. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese and garnished with herbs.