Eating with the Big Ragu

Ragu – (noun) 1. A brand of spaghetti sauce. 2. The boxing nickname for Carmine Ragusa (Shirley’s boyfriend from Laverne and Shirley).

That is what ragu meant to me. I’ve made my share of recipes with an Italian tomato based sauce and 99% of the time that sauce has come from a jar. For lasagna, spaghetti and the like I would take the easy way out. I’ve tried both the mainstream (Ragu, Prego), the local (Cleveland’s Own Little Italy sauce) and everything in between and usually find them serviceable. Some are pretty good, few are outright bad, but most just plain work.

This recipe walks you through making your own sauce. You start with three different types of mushrooms and after adding tomatoes and other ingredients, and a lot of time, end up with a really good ragu.

Photo Dec 24, 12 40 59 PM

Like all lasagna, this sets up much better for photos the next day.

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I’m not sure I’ll make my own every time from this point forward, but when I have time, it brings great flavor.

Photo Dec 23, 11 54 14 AM

Look at all of those ingredients!

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Re-hydrating the mushrooms.

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The cheese is ready.

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Ingredients ready for cooking.

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Cooking up the ragu.

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After hours on the stove.

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Making the cheese component.

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Pasta all cooked.

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Sauce on the bottom.

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Then pasta.

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And cheese.

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Looks great.

Photo Dec 23, 5 39 28 PM


Spinach Lasagna With Mushroom Ragu

Prep Time: 0 hours 30 minutes | Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes | Makes: 6 to 8 servings | Difficulty: Easy


For the ragu:

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the lasagna:

  • 3 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 pounds part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 ounces asiago cheese, shredded
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 12 ounces dried lasagna noodles


Make the ragu: Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1 cup hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Chop; reserve the liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Add the portobello and shiitake mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are soft, 5 more minutes.

Add the porcini mushrooms; cook 2 minutes. Add the reserved porcini liquid, bring to a boil and cook until reduced slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, 2 cups water and the bay leaves; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the parsley and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, stirring a few times, until thick, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. (You can make the ragu up to 1 day ahead; let cool, then cover and chill. Reheat before using.)

Make the lasagna filling: Mix the parmesan, mozzarella and asiago; set 1 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture aside. Combine the remaining cheese mixture in a large bowl with the ricotta, eggs, spinach, nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain and rinse under cold water; shake off the excess water.

Spread 1 cup of the ragu in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add a layer of noodles, then half of the spinach mixture and 2 cups ragu. Repeat with another layer of noodles, spinach mixture and ragu. Top with the remaining noodles and ragu and sprinkle with the reserved cheese. Cover with foil, place on a baking sheet and bake 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, about 25 more minutes. Let rest before serving.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Cheese2, Italian, kosher, Lunch2, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetable2, Vegetarian

Author:The Ranting Chef

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2 Comments on “Eating with the Big Ragu”

  1. August 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Looks yummy !! Not too long ago I posted a recipe for Stuffed Shells. The filling was a lot like yours but mine didn’t have the asiago cheese – I want to try your filling next time!


  2. August 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    This ragu had me drooling and wanting to make it for my dinner this evening. Alas I do not have all the ingredients this week in my pantry but it looks like one that I would love to try. YUM! Sometimes I add a splash of milk or wine to my ragu. 🙂


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