…and here we have another one of those ‘must have’ comfort foods that seem to whisper to us during this time of year. This chicken sausage ragu does not kid around. It is chock full of sausage, mushrooms, and a savory tomato backdrop. Add a ton of melted cheese at the end, and all you need is a roaring fire or an old movie on TV to make it a perfect night. Once you taste this, you would swear it required several hours sweating over a hot stove. More good news: from beginning to end, it will take much less than an hour. Let me show you how easy this is:
The true stars of this show are the mushrooms. You can use any kind you like, but we chose wild Chanterelles, and their little flavorful cousins, the Criminis. Crimini mushrooms are those darker ones you see in the mushroom bins at the store. Did you know they are just baby versions of the big Portobello mushrooms that are good for stuffing? They are all just so darned pretty, I had to show you a few before they were sliced. Cleaning mushrooms can be a challenge, so I just use a damp paper towel and do the best I can – this is not about suffering, and ingesting a little forest soil here or there will make us all better people.
To the mushrooms, we add diced onion and colorful sweet pepper…
Next up is grabbing a big Dutch oven or pot large enough to hold everything. Cook the sausage and set aside. You’ve probably figured out by now that if you don’t want to use chicken sausage, you can use any sausage you want – this is now your recipe. Remove the sausage from the pan and add your vegetables. See that dark stuff around the edge of the pan? That is a good thing, and is called ‘fond’ for those of you who care about such things. Fond, as I translate it, means: crunchy, tasty, bits and will add a ton of flavor to our end game.
Once the water has cooked off those mushrooms (be patient – it will look like a flood in there for awhile, but with diligence most will evaporate), the pan is deglazed with some red wine. Deglazed just means you put some wine in there and scrape up all of that fond on the bottom and sides, then let the wine cook down by about half.
That step will not take long, and then back in goes the chicken, some vegetable broth, Italian seasonings, and a big can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer until thickened, which takes about 5 minutes. It’s kind of like magic and I don’t understand why, but must be some mushroom karma related thing.
Is your mouth watering yet because mine sure is. I usually spend quite a bit of time at this point ‘testing and tasting’ to make sure it’s just right. And when you are finished with your testing and tasting, it’s time to dig in. PS. While all of this is going on, you will see in the recipe below that you have cooked up a batch of lasagne noodles, cooled and rinsed them, and cut into big, rustic slices about an inch wide. If you are having anger issues, just tear the lasagne instead of cutting it – that oftentimes works well for me. There are many options for serving, but here are a couple of ways you can do it for individual bowls: Place warmed noodles in a bowl (probably best not to kid around and go for a big one), and spoon the ragu over the top…
Another way is to toss the noodles with the pasta, and serve that way.
But wait a second…what about the CHEESE?!?! I like to hide the mozzarella in the center of the bowl so it melts quicker..
Let’s let some parmesan rain on down…
…and now my life is complete. Happy, cozy, comfort food days, my friends. I hope you enjoy this!
- 2 pounds of Italian chicken sausage
- 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 cups of sliced mushrooms (I used a combination of Crimini and Chanterelle)
- 1 orange or yellow pepper, diced
- 1, 28 ounce can of crushed, fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 2-3 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or a combination of basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme and sage (combination of your choice, depending on what you like best)
- As always, salt and pepper to taste
- ½ pounds of lasagna noodles
- About 1 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese blend
- About 2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
- In a large pot of boiling water, cook lasagna according to package directions. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Place noodles in a bowl and toss with a good drizzle of olive oil. If noodles are cool enough to handle at this point, take them out of the bowl and slice each noodle widthwise into between ½ and 1 inch strips. Set aside.
- In a large Dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat until it shimmers, then add sausage and sauté until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In the same Dutch oven, sauté onion and peppers until softened. (You may need to add a little additional oil, depending on how much fat was in your sausage) Add mushrooms and continue cooking until cooked through and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has been cooked away. Now would be a good time to add salt and pepper.
- Add the red wine and cook for a couple of minutes, making sure to scrape up any of those delicious crusty bits left on the bottom of the pan.
- Return the chicken sausage to the pan,
- Add Italian seasoning, the canned tomatoes and broth. Cook until thickened. This won’t take but a very few minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- To serve: You can serve this in individual portions or family style. To serve family style, arrange the noodles in a very large, shallow serving bowl or baking dish. Spoon half of the hot ragu over the top, and then sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Top with the remaining ragu and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Dive in.
- If you want to put this together to serve later, just follow the directions above, but put the noodles and ragu in an oven safe baking dish. Put it all together, cover with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray, and bake until mixture bubbles. Pass big old chunks of crusty bread to make sure you get any left over sauce.