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The ‘other’ pasta Bolognese better suits weeknight cooking

Classic, slow-simmered ragù Bolognese isn’t a weeknight dinner option, but its tomato-free cousin, white Bolognese, certainly can be.
This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for Pasta with Sausage and Porcini Mushroom Ragu. (Milk Street via AP)

Classic, slow-simmered ragù Bolognese isn’t a weeknight dinner option, but its tomato-free cousin, white Bolognese, certainly can be. This rustic sauce made from ground meat, white wine, aromatics and olive oil is no less traditional and gets on the table in under 45 minutes.

In the version from our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we use Italian sausage for ease, as it already is well seasoned. Though pork sausage would be the most typical, it has a fattiness that weighs down the dish. Spiced turkey or chicken sausage, mild or sweet, is a lighter alternative that makes sense just after the holidays.

Fresh sausage, not precooked, is key to the success of this recipe, as are dried porcini mushrooms. They provide a meaty, umami-packed backbone of flavor that’s harder to achieve with fresh mushrooms. Rather than rehydrate the dried mushrooms before use, we save time by simmering them directly in the sauce, where they soften and release their richness — so you won’t lose any flavor by discarding the soaking liquid.

A small measure of heavy cream lends a rich, silky consistency. Wide noodles such as pappardelle or tagliatelle are ideal here, but fettuccine is good, too.

Just make sure to break the porcini mushrooms into small pieces and rinse them before stirring them into the sauce. Otherwise, you may be left with a ragù flecked with grit.

Pasta with Sausage and Porcini Mushroom Ragù

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

12 ounces dried pappardelle or tagliatelle pasta

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound fresh turkey or chicken Italian sausage (see headnote), casing removed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, chopped

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces, rinsed and drained

1 cup dry white wine

¼ cup heavy cream

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated, (1/2 cup) plus more to serve

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil, roughly chopped

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain and return the pasta to the pot. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into small bits, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, then add the wine and scrape up any browned bits. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.

Pour the sauce over the pasta and add the Parmesan. Cook over medium, stirring often, until the sauce clings to the pasta, about 2 minutes; add reserved pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time if needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the basil and additional Parmesan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at

Christopher Kimball, The Associated Press