This past January I decided to eliminate meat from my diet. I allowed fish once or twice a week, but the rest of my meals were all plant-based. I have cooked a lot of vegetarian recipes, some of them completely vegan.
This recipe is actually vegetarian (as I have sprinkled the pasta with Parmigiano before baking it). However, the ragu’s recipe is completely vegan and can be used for any other type of pasta or with polenta.
I combined chestnut and oyster mushrooms and added a sachet of dried porcini as well. The fresh mushrooms are first roasted in the oven to remove any water and make them more meat-y. The final look is very similar to a meat-based ragu (you can find my recipe here), but the smell and taste are undoubtedly that of mushrooms!
With the quantity provided you might not need to use the whole ragu for the pasta bake. If any left, you can refrigerate it. The ragu can be preserved in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Pasta bake with vegan ragu
For the ragu
For the pasta
Preheat the oven to 230C fan. Put the fresh mushrooms into a food processor in 3 or 4 batches and pulse each batch until finely chopped (or finely chop by hand). Toss the chopped mushrooms into a large bowl, season with 3 tbsp of oil and 1 tsp salt. Spread onto a large oven tray lined with baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring half-way through. Once ready, remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature at 200C.
While the mushrooms are in the oven, prepare the other ingredients. Soak the dried porcini in water according to the instructions on the package. Once ready, strain the liquid into another bowl (try to squeeze as much liquid as you can, which you will use in the ragu). Roughly chop the porcini.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. Put the onion, carrot and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer them in the pot and fry on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden. Place the tomatoes in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped, then add to the pot alongside the tomato paste, 1 tsp of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rehydrated mushroomas and roasted mushrooms and cook for 7-10 minutes, without stirring (this will make the mushrooms slighly crispy and brown). Stir in the vegetable stock, add the liquid squeezed from the rehydrated mushrooms and 500ml water. Once simmering, reduce heat and cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the ragu looks too dry. You should get the consistency of a meat ragu. Stir in the cream, for another 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, then set aside.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Cook only half-way through as the past will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and when cool enough to touch the pasta, fill each shell with a tbsp of the ragu. Place on a baking tray, until it is all full. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano and drizzle a bit of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the top of the pasta looks brown and crisp. Sprinkle over the fresh parsley and drizzle a tbsp of cream before serving. Enjoy!