Whenever I talk about a “ragu” it’s usually a meat based sauce served with some type of pasta. In this case, I thought that the soft billowy texture of a potato Gnocchi, would be perfect. Let’s start with the ragu.
Most likely than not, Porcini mushrooms come in dried form. First, the rehydration process of the mushrooms. I like to use low sodium beef broth for soaking the Porcini mushrooms. On the stove, I add the 1 package ( usually about 4-5 ounces in a package) of dried Porcini mushrooms to a small sauce pan. I then cover the mushrooms with the beef broth. On med high heat, I bring the mushrooms in the broth up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the mushrooms have plumped up. I don’t throw away the broth, because that has a lot of flavor. Using a slotted spoon I remove the mushrooms from the liquid. Next, I chop the mushrooms up pretty finely and set them aside with the cooking liquid.
In a non-stick saute pan on med high heat, I added a pound of sweet Italian sausage that I just broke that up with the back on my wooden spatula. I really love the fennel taste that’s in sausage, so to reinforce that anise flavor, I added in 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (optional) to the sausage while it’s browning. I let that saute until all the sausage was caramelized and brown. That took about 10-12 minutes. In the mean time I diced up a large sweet onion and minced up 3 cloves of garlic. After the sausage was done browning, I removed it from the pan using a slotted spoon to allow some of the excess fat to drain off. I placed the browned sausage into a bowl until I was ready for it. I’m using a deep sided saute pan for this recipe. It really works well for making any type of ragu. I have the pan on the stove on getting hot on med heat. First I add in the olive oil, then, the diced onions and let those soften for about 2-3 minutes. Next, I add in the chopped Porcini mushrooms to the pan along with 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, Kosher salt, and black pepper. I let those saute for another 2 minutes. Remember the mushroom liquid that I reserved from re-hydrating the mushrooms? Well, I use 1 cup of that mushroom stock and add that right into the pan with the mushrooms and onions. I wait for that to come up to a bubble and reduce it to a simmer, scraping all those good bits off the bottom of the pan with my wooden spatula. Once most of the mushroom liquid has reduced to a couple of tablespoons, which really reinforces that mushroom flavor, I add the sweet Italian sausage back into the pan.
Still having the pan on med heat, I toss the sausage through with the mushrooms and let that cook together for another couple of minutes while I get some crushed tomatoes ready to add in. This is the time when I check the seasoning again. If it needs a sprinkling of salt and pepper at this point than I add it. but because I seasoned it earlier, it’s perfect. I add the minced garlic into the pan.This insures me that garlic will become sweet and tender and not burn. Now I add the crushed tomatoes and stir that through. I cook the tomatoes with the sausage and mushroom mixture for another 3-5 minutes. This gives the sauce a chance to cook down and flavor the other ingredients. At this point, I turn the heat down to low and stir in some heavy cream. This gives the ragu have a luxurious texture. Once the cream is stirred through, I have the burner set on warm while I wait on the Gnocchi to cook. This takes really no time at all. I have to say that I’ve made homemade Gnocchi before and it’s terrific. but they have some really great store bought ones today.
On another burner I add some salted boiling water boiling away. This way while I was finishing up the ragu, all I needed to do, was to throw the Gnocchi into the water. They cook really fast. Once they float to the top they’re done. Using a large colander spoon, I scoop out the Gnocchi and place it right into the ragu. Toss the Gnocchi through gently. Don’t worry if some of the pasta cooking water gets into the sauce that’s fine. The Gnocchi will absorb any extra starchy cooking liquid that gets into the ragu. This ragu is so delicious and hearty. The ragu clings to the Gnocchi. I turn the heat completely off now before adding in the Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese. Finally garnish with fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsely.
Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes (re-hydrating mushrooms)
Cooking Time: 35-40 minutes ( this estimation allows for the cooking time of browning sausage)
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage
1- 4-5 ounce package of dried Porcini mushroom
2 cups of low sodium beef broth
1 cup of mushroom stock ( the liquid from re-hydrating the mushrooms)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large sweet onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 package of potato Gnocchi
1-1/4 cups of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup of heavy cream
flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish
1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (more for topping each serving)
First you need to re-hydrate the mushrooms in low sodium beef broth. ?Remove the mushrooms, chop them up, and reserve the mushroom liquid. Next, brown off the sausage with the fennel seeds,. While the sausage is browning, dice up the onion and mince the garlic. When the sausage is done about 10- 12 minutes, drain the fat, and set the sausage in a bowl to the side. Have a pot of water on stand- by for cooking the Gnocchi on the back burner while you start the ragu. In a large deep side saute pan that’s been heating up on med heat,.add in the olive oil, then the diced onion.Season the onions with Kosher salt and pepper, and let that soften for 2-3 minutes. To that add in the chopped Porcini mushrooms ,and the fresh thyme leaves and toss that through with the onions. Add the cup of mushroom stock and reduce to a couple of tablespoons left in the pan. Next, add the browned of sausage back in with the minced garlic. Stir that through. Taste for seasoning again. Because I seasoned earlier in the making of the sauce, I find it doesn’t need any more salt and pepper. At this point turn the water on high to boil for the Gnocchi. Let this simmer for about 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add in the heavy cream.. Stir the cream through and turn the stove down again to “warm” while you add the Gnocchi into the boiling salted water. The Gnochhi cooks really fast. When it the Gnocchi floats it’s done. Using a colander spoon transfer the Gnocchi right into the pan with the ragu. Toss it through gently. Turn the heat off completely before adding in the cheese, and toss that through. Garnish with flat leaf Italian parsley.