“Ragu” is a broad term used to describe a rich, slowly cooked Italian meat sauce. It’s hearty, intensely flavorful, & unlike a slowly simmered marinara or tomato sauce, ragu is all about the meat (or a meaty ingredient, like mushrooms!).
I learned how to cook ragu 10+ years ago, working at a fine dining Northern Italian restaurant. To this day, it’s one of my favorite things to cook! We’ve shared many ragu recipes over the years here on PWWB, but never a meatless version…until now!
This Wild Mushroom Ragu recipe delivers the same rich & hearty flavor of ragu, but without the meat. Instead, it uses 3 types of mushrooms – cremini mushrooms, beautiful wild mushrooms, & decadent porcini mushrooms – to create the ultimate mushroom flavor. The mushrooms simmer with garlic, herbs, & vermouth, creating an intensely aromatic & boldly flavored sauce that’s perfect to toss into pasta or serve over polenta.
Since they’re the star of the dish, be sure to use the highest quality mushrooms you can find (refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for suggested mushroom varieties). Take time to really brown them well, which develops both their flavor & texture.
While it’s a completely meatless dish, the use of parmesan & heavy cream prevents it from being strictly vegetarian or vegan. However, with a couple of very simple tweaks, you can easily make your mushroom ragu free of dairy & animal rennet – refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for guidance.
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 16 ounces cremini mushrooms (baby bella), trimmed & sliced
- 16 ounces maitake mushrooms (or wild mushroom of choice), trimmed & torn into bite-sized pieces
- one 1-ounce package dried porcini mushrooms (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 cups vegetable stock or broth
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (about 8–10 sprigs)
- 1 cup dry vermouth (see Recipe Notes)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 12 ounces pasta of choice
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: black truffle oil, grated parmesan, finely chopped fresh herbs, etc.
- Brown the fresh mushrooms: Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Once hot & shimmering, add half of the mushrooms. Stir to coat the mushrooms in the oil then cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned & golden, about 8-10 minutes. Once browned, season with a good pinch of kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Transfer the browned mushrooms to a plate & set aside. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms.
- Reconstitute the porcini mushrooms: Meanwhile, as the fresh mushrooms brown, reconstitute the dried porcini mushrooms. Add the vegetable broth & dried porcini mushrooms to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil & reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer 10 minutes to reconstitute the mushrooms. Use a slotted spoon or spider strainer to remove the mushrooms from the pot, allowing all excess liquid to drain back into the pot. Remove the porcini-infused stock from the heat & set aside for later use. Transfer reconstituted porcini mushrooms to a cutting board & finely chop. Set aside.
- Cook the aromatics: Once the fresh mushrooms are browned, cook the aromatics. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the same pot used to brown the mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium. Once hot & shimmering, add the onions. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper, as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened & fragrant, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms from Step 2 & cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture is cooked out, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the garlic & fresh thyme. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes longer.
- Boil the pasta: While the aromatics soften, it’s a great time to get your pasta going. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked to al dente according to package directions. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the pot, reserving about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and set aside. Carefully drain the pasta – do NOT rinse it!
- Deglaze: Increasing the heat to medium-high, pour the dry vermouth into the pot. Stir constantly, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom of the pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the vermouth is almost completely absorbed into the aromatics.
- Build & simmer the mushroom ragu: Add the porcini-infused stock from Step 3 to the pot, along with the grated parmesan. Stir to combine. Bring the ragu to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 5-7 minutes, until thickened slightly. Stir in the heavy cream & the browned mushrooms from Step 1. Taste & adjust seasonings as desired.
- Finish the wild mushroom ragu pasta: Add the cooked pasta to the pot with the wild mushroom ragu sauce, tossing to coat. The wild mushroom ragu should evenly coat the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the ragu needs to loosen up a little; add in an extra handful of parmesan if it needs to tighten up a little. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the wild mushroom ragu.
- Serve: Portion the wild mushroom ragu pasta into individual pasta bowls, topping with additional grated parmesan & chopped fresh herbs as desired. For an extra-luxe finishing touch, I like to finish each bowl with the lightest drizzle of black truffle oil. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Best mushrooms for mushroom ragu: I like to make wild mushroom ragu using 2 types of fresh mushrooms – I like to splurge for really beautiful wild mushrooms – maitake (pictured), oyster, chanterelle, & shiitake are all great – but then balance them out with more cost-effective mushrooms like simple white button mushrooms or cremini (baby bella) mushrooms (pictured). Use what you love most or what’s most readily available to you.
- Porcini mushrooms are an Italian mushroom with especially rich & deep umami flavor. Dried porcini mushrooms are cost-effective & typically more readily available throughout the year here in the States. Look for them in the bulk section or sold in in 1-ounce packages at grocery stores or natural food stores that stock dried mushrooms. You can also easily purchase dried porcini mushrooms online.
- Dry vermouth: Originating in France, dry vermouth is a fortified wine infused with herbs & botanicals. Since dry vermouth is more boldly flavored than the average cooking wine, it adds an extra punch of aromatic goodness to whatever you’re cooking. If you don’t keep dry vermouth on hand, feel free to swap it out in this wild mushroom recipe with an equal amount of dry white wine, dry sherry, or dry marsala.
- Vegetarian &/or vegan mushroom ragu: This wild mushroom ragu recipe is naturally meatless. For a vegetarian version, omit the parmesan or use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan & omit the heavy cream or use your favorite non-dairy substitute.
- Make-Ahead, Storage & Reheating Instructions:
- Make-Ahead: Mushroom ragu sauce stores incredibly well – it’s the type of thing that gets even better as it sits & its flavors have the chance to meld together. To store, prep the sauce through Step 6 of Recipe Directions, above. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Whip up a batch of mushroom ragu pasta during the week by reheating the wild mushroom ragu sauce in a skillet, & completing the recipe according to Steps 4 + 7-8, above.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover mushroom ragu pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the ragu sauce as needed, until warmed through.
- 15-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this mushroom ragu recipe comes from prepping the veggies. Slice & dice in advance to get a head start on your mushroom ragu – it takes 15 minutes, tops:
- Dice 1 medium yellow onion & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (<5 minutes active prep)
- Clean, trim & prep the mushrooms as indicated in the Ingredients List, above. Place them in a paper towel-lined bowl & store in the main compartment of your refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)
Keywords: wild mushroom ragu, mushroom pasta, easy ragu recipe, vegetarian, vegan, plant-based