Imagine: It’s a stormy, snowy night. No, let’s make it freezing rain. You’ve just walked fourteen blocks without an umbrella and your hip knit scarf from Urban Outfitters has become a sponge around your neck. Your water logged shoes make a sickening squishy squeak as you climb three stories up the stairs, fumbling in your pocket for your keys. As you enter your apartment, you smell the most amazing smell of mushrooms, onions, garlic, and sherry. Behold! Your amazing roommate has made you the most comforting, delicious dish she’s ever made! And it has not one ounce of meat in it.
Ok, sorry for the self-aggrandizing. But seriously, this is one of the best dishes I’ve ever made, and here’s why.
It’s vegetarian! As we all know from New York Times mini celebrity Mark Bittman, eating more veggies and less meat is the way to go. This is a great Meatless Monday dish, or whatever. It can also be vegan (and would still be JUST as delicious) if you leave out the dairy. Holler to my vegan girls.
It’s SO CHEAP. A lot of the ingredients in this recipe are pantry staples, and the rest come from the produce section. It’s elegant enough to serve at a dinner party, but cheap enough for a financially challenged college student (so guys, when I serve this at my next dinner party, you know why). It satisfies vegetarians and meat-ophiles alike.
Oh, and did I mention it’s delicious? The ragu is rich and meaty, balanced by chopped parsley. Served over the creamy, cheesy polenta, this meal is a home run. Yeah, run out to the grocery store and make this tonight. For real. Thank me later.
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Mushroom Ragu Serves 4
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-2 pounds mushrooms of your choice, some sliced and some diced (for texture!)
-Salt and freshly ground black pepper
-1/2 cup Sherry
-2 cups chicken broth (I used veggie broth for my lovely friend Natalie)
-1/4 cup light cream
-A sprig of thyme
-1 tbsp. tomato paste
-1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
-1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
Heat oil in a sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garland stir until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the sprig of thyme and season with salt and pepper. Turn heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Spoon in tomato paste, and stir to coat mushrooms. Remove pan from heat and pour in Sherry. Return pan to stove and cook the alcohol out of the wine, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and simmer for about a half hour to thicken the sauce. Make sure it has reduced at least by half, if not more. Add cream and stir to incorporate. Turn off the heat and add the fresh herbs and cheese. Stir to combine everything, and serve over cheddar polenta (see recipe below).
Cheddar Polenta serves 4
-1 cup finely ground corn meal
-4 cups of water
-2/3 cup cheddar cheese
Measure water into a pan. Add cornmeal, then turn on heat to high. Stir constantly until polenta becomes thick and creamy. Slowly add cheddar and salt. When combined turn off heat and let stand for a few minutes, stir again, and pour into bowls.