Mushroom Ragù and Chicken Pesto Meatballs

The point of this dish, I expect, is to replace the meat. These mushrooms are meaty in their own right and this pasta meal is sure to be hearty…but I know better than to serve a meat-free meal chez Neudeck. Because I wanted to keep things quick and easy, the meat I added came in the shape of oven roasted meatballs that took some help from the store.

The original recipe for the pasta came from the NY Times, but I adapted it a bit. You’ll need two pots/pans, but you’re going to actually cook the pasta in the sauce, which makes things easy. Start by making that sauce aka the pasta’s boiling water. For 1 lb of pasta, use 5 c. chicken or vegetable stock and 1 c. heavy cream or half and half. [Note: I halved the broth/cream sauce part of the recipe and used a little less pasta that was a different shape (fusilli). I also used half and half instead of heavy cream to make it a bit healthier. I thought it was plenty saucy. Instead of dripping, the pasta was just very flavorful.] Add 1 tsp thyme (I used dried) 2 tsp porcini powder (I used Trader Joe’s umami seasoning), and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil. While the sauce heats up, start sautéing 1.5 lbs of chopped mushrooms (I used a mix of regular and cremini but feel free to get funkier – 3 packages will probably do ya) with 3 finely chopped shallots and 4 minced cloves of garlic. At some point whle your mushrooms cook, the sauce will have started to boil so it’s time to add your pasta and cook according to the package. Let them go til their nice and deep in color, about 12 minutes. Add 1/3 c. marsala or red cooking wine to the mushrooms and let it reduce for another 2 minutes. The mushrooms should finish at just around the same time that the pasta has cooked and absorbed all that sauce.

I served the pasta with chicken pesto meatballs. To make them, I simply mixed store-bought pesto into ground chicken with some panko bread crumbs, shredded parmesan, and crushed red pepper. 20-25 minutes in a 425 oven (on a silpat and drizzled with olive oil) is all it takes.

I just kept saying “wow” as I ate this pasta. It had such a depth of flavor. Nice and woodsy and the kind of comforting we want as the temperature falls. And the pasta itself had so much flavor because of that sauce! The meatballs paired perfectly and were so simple to throw together.