This traditional white ragu pasta recipe is full of flavor! It uses a combination of ground meats, pancetta, and mushrooms, giving you a rich umami dish that is perfect to impress guests and family.
The white ragu.
Like sauces with tomatoes, there are many different versions of white ragu here in Italy. It’s popular in many parts of the country, especially Tuscany. White ragu is usually made with a mixture of different ground meat (I used veal and pork) plus sausage or pancetta (I used pancetta).
The taste of the white ragu is milder than a traditional red ragu. So, it’s perfect with both wild and cultivated mushrooms as it doesn’t obscure their flavor but makes the dish richer and heartier.
The rigatoni I used was made by La Molisana, one of my favorites among the big pasta makers here in Italy! However, you can serve this sauce with either ribbons or short tubes such as penne or cut ziti.
I paired this white ragu with foraged chiodini (armillaria mellea). These mushrooms are found growing on or near hardwood trees. In English, they are better known as honey mushrooms. Honey mushrooms have a slightly sweet taste and a rich umami flavour. Many people say they are better than shiitake!
Pasta: Rigatoni is excellent for its ability to hold the sauce, but alternatives like tagliatelle, pappardelle, or penne also work well.
Mushrooms: I used foraged chiodini (honey mushrooms). You can use other wild mushrooms like porcini, or chanterelles or cultivated varieties such as cremini or shiitake are excellent choices.
Ground Meats: The blend of ground pork and veal adds richness to the ragu. For a simpler version, you can opt for just one type of ground meat or use another, like ground beef.
Pancetta: Adds a unique depth and saltiness to the ragu. If unavailable, you can substitute with bacon.
Vegetables: Carrots, celery, and onion form the classic ‘soffrito’ base, essential for a depth of flavor. Ensure they are finely chopped for a consistent texture in the sauce.
Herbs & Aromatics: Fresh sage, rosemary, and bay leaves are key for their aromatic contribution.
Wine: A good quality white wine is used to enhance both the ragu and mushrooms. It adds balance and depth to the dish.
Milk: A small amount of milk is added to the ragu to add richness.
Broth: Beef or vegetable broth contributes to the richness of the ragu. Homemade broth is best, but store-bought or a stock cube is a convenient alternative.
Proper Mushroom Cleaning: To clean the mushrooms, lightly brush them with a soft brush or wipe them with a damp cloth. Mushrooms can absorb water quickly, which dilutes their flavor and alters their texture. If you must rinse them, do it quickly under running water and immediately pat them dry.
Mushroom Sautéing: Use a large sauté pan to cook the mushrooms. The ample space allows each mushroom to contact the pan’s surface, preventing steaming and encouraging browning.
Cooking Pasta: Make sure to use a large pot of boiling, salted water for even cooking. The goal is to achieve ‘al dente’ – tender yet firm to the bite. Timing is key; refer to the pasta’s package instructions, but start checking a few minutes before the recommended time, then in short intervals.
Step by Step Instructions
1) In a frying pan or skillet, heat olive oil. Cook carrots, onion, celery, sage, and rosemary until softened.
2) Add the ground pork, ground veal, and chopped pancetta. Let the meat brown well over high heat, stirring constantly.
3) Add white wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Season with salt and pepper, add bay leaves and 2 ladles of hot stock. Simmer for about 1 hour, adding more stock as necessary.
4) In a frying pan or skillet, heat olive oil and cook garlic until slightly softened. Add mushrooms, cook for 5-10 minutes. Add the white wine and turn up the heat until the alcohol evaporates. Reduce the heat, stir in parsley, and cook for 1-2 more minutes.
Note: If the mushrooms seem dry, you can add some broth or pasta cooking water to them.
5) Ten minutes before the meat ragu is finished, remove bay leaves and add milk then simmer over low heat. While the white ragu simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add salt and bring to the boil again.
6) Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and mix with the white ragu sauce.
7) Serve topped with mushrooms, garnished with parsley, and optionally grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
Storage and Leftovers
Store the white ragu pasta and any leftover mushrooms in an airtight container. It will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
If you are planning on freezing this recipe, it’s best to remove the amount of white ragu you would like to freeze before you add the pasta. This is because the pasta can become mushy upon thawing and reheating.
White ragu stored separately in an airtight container (with or without mushrooms) will last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
Reheating on the Stovetop:
- Place the refrigerated ragu pasta in a saucepan.
- Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash of broth or water to moisten.
- Heat until the pasta is warm throughout, which should take about 5-7 minutes.
Reheating in the Microwave:
- Transfer a portion of the ragu pasta to a microwave-safe dish.
- Cover with a microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap.
- Heat on medium power for 2 minutes, then stir. Continue in 30 to 60 second intervals, stirring each time, until fully heated.
A white ragu is a meat-based sauce that omits tomatoes, commonly found in many traditional ragu recipes. It typically includes a blend of meats, broth, and sometimes milk or cream, resulting in a rich, savory sauce with a lighter color ragu.
You can cook the ragu a day or two before and store it in the refrigerator. This can actually enhance the flavors as they meld together over time. When ready to serve, reheat the ragu gently in a pot while you cook the pasta.
You can use a variety of mushrooms. Wild mushrooms like chiodini (honey mushrooms), porcini or chanterelles are excellent for their distinct flavors. Cultivated mushrooms such as cremini or shiitake also work well, offering a more accessible option while still adding depth to the dish.
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If you make this Italian white ragu pasta with mushrooms recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. So, please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
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If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipe cookbooks or checkout some recommended pasta making tools?