This spicy mushroom-sausage ragù is an amazing comfort meal that will have everyone in your family asking for seconds.
Is there truly a better comfort meal of baked pasta? Now, personally, I do not care for baked pasta that cooks in the oven for an hour (with the exception of lasagna of course). This is mainly because I’ve found that baked pasta loses that nice chewy al dente texture in the pasta.
Instead, in this spicy mushroom-sausage ragù, I cook the sauce low and slow on the stove, prepare pasta a little short of the cook time, and then bake for about 10 minutes just to melt the cheese. I broil the pasta for a minute or two just to crisp up some of the pasta on top and to brown the cheese.
This mushroom-sausage ragù is so incredibly easy to make but it’s ridiculously rich in flavor. My secret ingredient is ground white pepper and fire-roasted tomatoes. Both add subtle funky undertones to the sauce that we just loved. Coupled with spicy sausage, tender mushrooms, and sweet carrots, this sauce is a complete flavor bomb.
How to Make this Spicy Mushroom-Sausage Ragù:
Making this recipe is pretty straightforward and relatively simple, though it does require a bit of babysitting on the stove to make the sauce initially.
First, start by browning the sausage. Transfer it to a bowl. If it was quite fatty, drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot.
Next, cook your aromatics, including finely diced carrots and onion. I like to sauté them until the carrots begin to pick up a bit of char on the edges, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until it’s fragrant, about 1 minute. Move them over to one side of the pot and add the mushrooms. You’ll want to cook the mushrooms for at least 12-15 minutes. The mushrooms will release a lot of liquid but keep cooking until they begin to form a beautiful crust around the edges and all of the liquid evaporates.
From there, add the sausage back to the pot, season with salt, ground white pepper, and thyme and cook for 1 minute more. Add the beef stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer your delicious ragù for about 1 hour. You can leave it covered or uncovered, but I wanted a thick, jammy sauce so I left it uncovered. Check on the sauce periodically. If it’s sticking, add more liquid and partially cover the pot. If it’s too watery, turn up the heat to cook off the excess liquid.
Baking the Ragù:
Right before your sauce is done, bring a large pot of salted water to a hard boil. Cook the pasta about 2-3 minutes under al dente. Scoop out about 2/3 cup of the pasta cooking water and throw it into the ragù. If you have a spider strainer, simply scoop out the pasta from the pot and toss it into the ragù – easy peasy! If you don’t have a spider strainer, simply drain the pasta into a colander, but don’t rinse it.
If you need to make substitutions, refer to my guide below:
- Sausage: Use ground beef, ground pork, or a mix. If you use ground beef or pork, you’ll want to amp up the seasonings like fennel, thyme, rosemary, or oregano. For a vegetarian version, use an extra pound chopped mixed mushrooms.
- Carrots: Typically ragù has a base on onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. You can replace the carrots with celery or you can even try this with finely diced sweet potatoes.
- Mushrooms: Use any mix of mushrooms that you like. If you don’t have mushrooms, increase the amount of ground meat by about half.
- Rigatoni: A nice tubular pasta, such as ziti, penne, or paccheri works best in this dish, but try this ragù with pappardelle!
Looking for more pasta recipes? Check my archives!
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Spicy Mushroom-Sausage Ragù
- Large pot
- Oval baking dish, optional
- 2 teaspoons olive oil for sautéing
- 1 pound loose hot Italian sausage
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
- 1 yellow onion peeled and diced
- 3 medium carrots peeled and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons butter optional
- 1 pound cremini mushrooms diced
- 5 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon dry thyme
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 cups beef stock or 1 cup red wine, 2 cups beef stock
- 28 ounce can fire-roasted crushed or diced tomatoes if using diced, drain the tomatoes first
- Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the Sausage:
- Heat extra virgin olive oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 8-12 minutes until the sausage is cooked through and begins to brown. If desired, add an extra ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper to the sausage.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate. If the sausage was very fatty. drain off all but 1 tablespoon fat in the pot. Return the pot to medium heat.
Cook the Aromatics:
- Add the carrots and onions to the oil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the aromatics begin to deepen in color and develop a crust. Season with salt and pepper and move them to one side of the pot.
- If desired, melt 2 tablespoons butter into the pot.
- Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring regularly, for 12-15 minutes until they release all their liquid and the liquid evaporates. It will take some time, so be patient. Continue cooking until the mushrooms develop a beautiful golden crust.
- Add the garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Season with salt, white pepper, and thyme and cook for 45 seconds until fragrant.
Simmer the Ragù:
- Return the sausage to the pot and toss to combine. Add the beef stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. If the ragù sticks, add a lid and a few splashes more of water to loosen it up. The end result should be a very thick, jammy sauce, so if your ragù is watery, turn up the heat a bit during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to cook off the excess water. It will allow it to develop a truly rich flavor! Don't worry, you will loosen it up with pasta cooking water later!
- Taste and simmer the ragù to your preferences.
Cook the Pasta:
- Shortly before the ragù finishes simmering, preheat oven to 425ºF and cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta about 2-3 minutes shy of al dente.
- Scoop out ⅔ cup of the pasta cooking water and pour it into the ragù and stir to combine.
- Using a spider strainer, scoop out the pasta and transfer it directly to the pot of sauce and toss to combine. Turn off the heat.
Bake the Pasta:
- If you have an oven-proof pot, you can assemble the pasta directly in the pot. Otherwise transfer the sauced pasta to a lightly greased oval baking dish.
- Arrange the mozzarella on top of the pasta and sprinkle with dry parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- If desired, turn on the broiler and broil the cheese for 2-3 minutes until golden brown bubbles begin to form. Turn off the heat and allow the baked pasta to cool for a few minutes before serving.
- Divide the mushroom-sausage ragù and rigatoni between shallow bowls. Garnish with a tiny bit of flaky sea salt if you like, and a touch more parsley. Enjoy!