Pasta with Mushroom-Sausage Ragu

I can’t believe it, but it’s March already.  That means more sunlight, the first of the slightly warmer temperatures, and being able to completely and totally justify buying sundresses, sandals, and flip flops.  It also means savoring the last of the fireplace nights, sweatshirts, mugs of hot chocolate, and hearty, belly-warming meals. 

Unfortunately, those cold weather meals have quite the reputation for helping us pack on the pounds.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Just because something fills you up and warms you up doesn’t mean it has to weigh you down.  Case in point, this recipe.  The ratio of mushrooms to sausage falls greatly in  favor of the mushrooms and the cream sauce doesn’t actually contain any cream at all.  The end result is a meal you would swear is a decadent, cold weather indulgence but is, in reality, a healthy and very balanced meal.

pasta mushroom sausage ragu

Pasta with Mushroom-Sausage Ragu
adapted from Clean Eating, March 2013

8 oz. short shape paste, such as ziti, penne, or rigatoni (whole-wheat would be great here)
1 c. plus 1 TBSP 2% milk, divided
1 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot
2 TBSP olive oil, divided
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste
8 oz. Italian turkey sausage, mild or spicy
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP fresh thyme leaves, divided
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes, to taste

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and cook according to package directions.  Combine 1 TBSP milk and cornstarch or arrowroot in a slurry.

2.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 TBSP oil.  Add mushroom and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated.    Reduce heat and continue cooking until tender and lightly browned, about 9 to 11 minutes total.  Add garlic, salt, and pepper, and sauté 1 minute.  Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

3.  Return skillet to stove and add remaining oil.  Add sausage to skillet and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula, until no longer pink, 3-4 minutes.

4.  Add 1 cup milk and tomato paste and bring to a simmer (this will happen very quickly), stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add to skillet.  Simmer, stirring gently, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Stir in mushroom mixture and 2 tsp. thyme.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

5.  To serve, divide pasta among four bowls and top with equal amounts ragu.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese, remaining thyme, and red pepper flakes, if desired.
yield: 4 servings

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