A ragù over pasta is one of the greatest cool-weather dishes you could possibly have! Sure, that’s just an opinion, but it’s a correct one! We’ve made many different versions of ragù and this Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Ragù is one we really enjoy especially during the slow transition into Fall, but honestly, we eat it year-around.
What is Ragù?
So, what’s a ragù? It’s nothing to get wrapped around the axel about, although you will undoubtably find people who do! From our perspective, the traditional Italian “rules” about a ragù are that it is meat-based, meat-dominated sauce for pasta, and has limited use of tomatoes. But ragù sauces throughout Italy will change based on region, village, and even down to each family and household. A variety of meats can be used along with a variety of cooking liquids, vegetables and herbs. If tomatoes are dominating, it’s a tomato sauce, not a ragù, so if you are looking for a tomato-based sauce, check out our marinara sauce instead. Other than that, every other qualifier is too rule-based for us, and we love shaking up the rules a bit!
Although we primarily make meat-dominated ragù, we have made a mushroom version without any meat and loved the result. Generally speaking when we make a ragù it’s going to be a slow-cooked meat-based sauce usually with wine as the cooking liquid.
Ragù vs Bolognese
Another common question is the difference between a ragù and a Bolognese. Short answer: Bolognese is a specific type of ragù originating from Bologna. Bolognese generally is made with ground or minched beef and pork and white wine along with a touch of cream and a small amount of tomato paste.
Often in the US, we see the term “Bolognese” used with versions of a sauce that are heavier on tomatoes, but this is not quite accurate according to the traditional sauce coming out of Bologna. Angela visited Bologna in 2019, and they are pretty serious when it comes to their traditions, and especially their pasta! Again, we like to be a bit more progressive when it comes to food, but considering Bolognese refers to something native to Bologna, we feel that the Bolognese tradition should be left alone, so you won’t necessarily see any majorly altered versions of sauce called “Bolognese” on our blog. Anyway… back to the main point here, ragù!
Our Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Ragù
A ragù with the addition of Shiitake mushrooms may seem a bit different, but the earthiness and complimentary flavor profile of shiitake mushrooms brings this dish to a different place. By no means are the mushrooms a dominant flavor, and many would find it difficult to single out mushrooms as an ingredient, but the enhancement can only be appreciated if you try it without them. We saved you the effort here, use some shiitake mushrooms for the upgraded taste.
Does the size of the pork cuts matter?
We chose to cut the pork into about ½” cubes or chunks for this version but you certainly can do whatever you wish here. Many ragù dishes use ground proteins (more-so in Northern Italy) and others rather large cuts. We prefer bite-sized but still in-tact pieces of meat in the final dish. This is because we prefer the mouthfeel of the larger pieces, but it won’t take away from the overall taste if you choose to change that.
If you want your meat to completely fall apart and blend into the sauce, then use smaller chunks or minced pieces of meat. If you want a bit more texture with chunks of meat that are ultra-tender and juicy when you bite into them, follow our instructions for larger cuts. We encourage you always to try different ways of making it to determine what you like best in this dish.
We use basil to garnish at the end to brighten up the final plated dish, but there are quite a few Fall herbs in the sauce, so use what you want at the end and what is available or in season. Basil isn’t an autumn/winter herb, but it does work well and is usually available in stores. Thyme, parsley or even a tiny bit of oregano or rosemary would also work here. Again, experiment to determine which herbs you prefer at the end to complement the flavors of the sauce.
Which pasta is best for the Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Ragù?
There are many people out there who will say a specific pasta shapes should or should not go with a certain sauce. Here’s our take…
Pasta is delicious in all forms. From egg yolk pasta to eggless pasta, it is ALWAYS GOOD. But, the purpose of the shape is to get mouthfeel that changes the experience you have as you eat. So, you want to choose a shape that will be best with the type of sauce you choose to put on it. Pasta shapes with ridges, folds, or hollows will hold more of the sauce with each bite.
We chose to use an eggless pasta dough with a combination of Tipo 00 flour and semolina and hand roll penne rigate. Our multipurpose pasta dough can work well here, too. The ridges on the outside catch the sauce and the sauce travels trough the hollows. But a flat noodle, like tagliatelle or fettuccine, or other shaped pasta like cavatelli will not disappoint. Again, you do you and experiment with different shapes of pasta for different mouth feels and experiences.
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We hope you enjoy our version of Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Ragù. If you give it a try, leave us a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Looking for more pasta recipes? Check out some of our popular pasta recipes below: