Chestnut and mushroom ragù

Happy New Year! 

I hope things are going well so far in 2017!  I'm happy to step back into this space after taking a little break.  It means things are back-to-normal - the kitchen makeover has been completed!  It took about a month and while there were a couple of inevitable snags along the way, we're very happy with the outcome.  Now...after all the dust, the fuss, and the cleanup (special thanks to my husband who did most of it!), we're simply enjoying the result.
Despite the somewhat relentless string of colds and viruses my family and I seem to be coming down with this winter, we've managed to stay functional and to hold on to our appetites.  So I've been pretty busy in the kitchen since we've been up and running again, making up for lost time and comforting ourselves with home cooking. Taking a break and changing things up is good (I feel a renewed energy in the kitchen) but it's amazing how quickly we got tired of take-out and restaurant meals, and how much we missed simple home cooking!

I've been able to cook since New Year's eve so I've had a good amount of time to load my family up on our favorite stir-fries and rice dishes; we've enjoyed a few lingering pancake breakfasts and I even got to make some Christmas cookies that I didn't get a chance to whip up before the holidays.  While we've generally been sticking to family favorites, I got a chance to try a new recipe in the form of this ragù I'd like to chat about today.  
You might expect a meat sauce when you hear ragù (and doesn't anything "ragù" sound especially appealing in the wintertime) but this one is made with chestnuts and mushrooms, and these two ingredients truly are the stars of this dish, which comes from Lidia Bastianich.  I have been watching Lidia's PBS cooking shows for many, many years and her food - especially, her pasta dishes - are always mouthwatering and calling my name!  And this particular dish - this chestnut and mushroom ragù she made and served with spaghetti on the show - really had me swooning and running into the kitchen at the first opportunity!

It may be my love of chestnuts, or my general partiality to anything "ragù", which in turn conjures up pasta, that had me itching to try this.  It's easy to make with a handful of ingredients (aside from the headliners, you need only a few other mainly pantry ingredients) and you end up with this unusual "sauce" that's deliciously earthy yet slightly sweet from the chestnuts.  
It's satisfying and hearty but light at the same time.  It's not only great with pasta (I paired it with pappardelle) but also excellent as a side with meat (because you have the mushrooms and some carbs in the form of the chestnuts), as a topping for bruschetta, or frankly, eaten all on its own!

I hope you're eating well so far in 2017 and I wish you many happy meals with loved ones around the table this year!


This recipe calls for a good 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms.  You can use any combination you like - the more variety, the more interesting the result will be.  I used basic white button, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms.  As for the chestnuts, I went with jarred ones; you can also use frozen or canned chestnuts or even cook and peel fresh ones yourself, though I would recommend taking advantage of the more convenient options.  Keep everything chopped on the chunky/thicker side so it doesn't break down completely during cooking.
There is something wonderfully domestic and cozy about taking out your large Dutch oven and cooking up a good sauce!  I love standing over the stove, stirring the ingredients together, hearing the sizzle and watching the food dance in the pot.
Garlic and shallots, and some thyme, flavor the ragù, and while you might be expecting some stock or wine to go into the pot - all you need here is some tomato paste and hot water to create the sauce.  That, together with the natural juices from the mushrooms, create a delicious sauce as the chestnuts break down and help to thicken and add a little sweetness to the ragù.
The ragù was delicious, great with the pappardelle pasta, which is one of my favorites.  And as my husband and I were enjoying our bowls of pasta, we kept thinking this really would be a wonderful accompaniment beside some kind of roast or meat.  You'd have the sauce and the vegetable/carbohydrate all ready in this chestnut and mushroom ragù.
This is a great vegetarian ragù option.  I'm so glad I reacted on my impulse to cook this dish after seeing Lidia make it on her show.  I think I need to make more of Lidia's recipes asap!

Recipe:

Chestnut and Mushroom Ragù 
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. mixed mushrooms (such as buttons, cremini, shiitaki, oyster, chanterelle), thickly sliced 
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups chopped chestnuts (jarred, canned, or freshly cooked and peeled)
2 cups of hot water
Pasta, for serving (optional)
Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

In a large Dutch oven or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add the garlic and cook until it begins to sizzle.  Add shallots and cook together until softened, 2-3 minutes.  

Add the mushrooms, thyme, salt, a few cracks of black pepper and red pepper flakes (if desired).  Stir together, then cover and cook, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes.  Uncover and increase the heat to reduce away the liquid in the pan, cooking for about 2 minutes or so.  Make a space in the pan and add the tomato paste.  Cook and stir the tomato paste in that spot until it toasts and deepens in color by a shade or two, about 2 minutes.  Now stir the tomato paste all around into the mushrooms.  

Add chestnuts and 2 cups of hot water.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until chestnuts begin to fall apart and thicken the sauce slightly.  Uncover and increase heat to reduce the sauce to your liking, if necessary (if serving with pasta, I would not overly reduce the sauce).

Serve ragù with freshly cooked pasta, as a side dish, a topping for bruschetta, or enjoy on its own!  Top with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if desired.


26 comments:

  1. I am not really fancy for a meat sauce, mushroom and chestnut are way better! This looks warming, comforting and so delicious! Happy New Year, Monica.

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    1. Happy New Year to you, too! Hope it's filled with delicious & healthy eats and plenty of laughter.

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  2. Yeah! Your kitchen is done :) Lucky you - we are still not done 9 months later - haha. It is functional, just not finished. Anyway - love this hearty recipe. I adore mushrooms and this recipe is right up my ally. Welcome back and happy New Year!

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    1. Omg - Tricia, that is scary...9 months and counting?! I would not survive that. I think it's lucky our kitchen is so small and we kept things the same in terms of positioning. It was a minor job compared to most, I would think!
      And Happy New Year to you also! I hope you have many memorable Sunday dinners with your family to cherish.

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  3. Congratulations on the kitchen makeover. Are we going to be able to have a sneak peek? I understand if not as trust me with having everyone home around the holidays our kitchen got quite the workout!!! Love this savory and cozy ragu! How delicious! Happy New Years!

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    1. Thanks, Bobbi. Yes, we are busy cooking and eating up a storm. Our colds that we can't seem to shake does not seem to be impacting our appetites. : ) Happy 2017!

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  4. Happy New Year, Monica! Hope you had a wonderful holiday! So happy to hear your kitchen is done! :) I would be craving homecooked meals after all of that too. This chestnut and mushroom look like the perfect meal after all the takeout. Looks SO comforting and delicious!

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelly. I feels great to have privacy again and not to be nailed down to the house. And to have a fresh kitchen to cook in is a blessing. Hope 2017 is off to a great start for you guys!

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  5. Happy New Year to you, too, Monica! Your ragu sounds delicious and filling - perfect for a cold winter's day.

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    1. It was very filling, even without any meat. Love that. And I'm so happy I tried it. Stay warm and enjoy the year!

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  6. so glad your kitchen make-over went as planned, though a month out of the kitchen must of been tough for you. Love this dish Monica, I am now a chestnut convert and I bet they are delicious with the mushrooms. Happy 2017!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cheri! This dish turned out great...given how often you try different recipes, you know how great it is to discover something new and tasty you can make yourself. : ) And now, I would like to go over to your place for some homemade vanilla ice cream. ; P

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  7. Monica is back... Yuppie. Happy year 2017.
    You know what, I was very curious to see the cake you made for Christmas.
    I couldn't agree with you more on nothing is better than a simple home cooking - your Mushroom Ragù looks appetizing. And congratulations on the kitchen makeover, lucky girl.

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    1. Thanks very much! Happy 2017! Hope you had a beautiful holiday. Christmas was an adjustment without a working stove here but we had a good time. Glad it's all done and we're back to "normal". : )

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  8. Yay for your kitchen reno being done!! I bet you are so enjoying cooking up a storm :) I hear you on the colds - I've had a nasty one for the last week and I just want it to be gone!! Anyway, this ragu! SO right up my alley. What a great way to kick off 2017!

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    1. I hear you - everyone I talk to can relate to these lingering colds right now. Let's keep riding it out and doing our best. I'm very glad to be cooking and eating homemade meals again, thank you. : )

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  9. So good that your new kitchen is ready, you must be so happy. I love this recipe, chestnuts are a rare treat in my kitchen (they are just sooo expensive here), but when I do buy them, I love them. I will keep this in mind for my next chestnuts.

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    1. Yes, we're thrilled with it. And yes, chestnut are so expensive! It's hard to find fresh ones here (mainly only during holidays) and the jarred kind are very pricey. Once in a while, I find a sale but no luck this year. I used my last precious jar of chestnuts for this recipe and it was totally worth it. Happy 2017!

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  10. This sounds delicious and what a great way to use up any chestnuts that might be hanging around after the holidays!

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    1. I wish I had extra chestnuts! I love them. : )

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  11. Happy new year to you too and glad you had a little break! I took one too and I finally feel like I can breathe again after the holidays. This looks amazing!

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    1. Hi Ashley - thanks! I am glad you had a break, too. It's very necessary and so good to catch your breath. The holidays are a sprint!

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  12. Wow, a new kitchen! Bravo to your husband! New Kitchen & new recipes in 2017! Happy New Year Monica:) This ragù is making my mouth water, yum yum yum!

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  13. Damn Delicious!!!
    pretty comfoting recipe

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    1. Hi there, Dedy! Good to hear from you. Happy New Year! Hope you are cooking up a lot of your gourmet meals and enjoying every bite. : )

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