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Slow Cooker Meat and Mushroom Ragu

(Makes about 6 cups)

1 ounce dried porcini or other dried mushrooms
1-1/2 cups hot water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
4 ounces fresh white mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
8 ounces ground beef chuck
2 sweet Italian pork sausages, casings removed


Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl with hot water; set aside for 30  minutes.
Scoop the mushrooms out of the water and squeeze them to get out as much water as possible.  If the water is gritty, strain it through a coffee filter or paper towel placed inside of a strainer to remove the grit.  Set the soaking liquid aside.  Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set them aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, fresh mushrooms and garlic.  Season with slat and pepper. Saute, stirring often, until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker.  Add the ground beef and sausage to the skillet, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the meat to the slow cooker.  Add the reconstituted mushrooms and the soaking liquid. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Serve with pappardelle or similar size pasta.
Mushroom and Meat Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta
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Dried Porcini mushrooms have a smoky flavor that enriches the flavor of soups, gravies and sauces for polenta and pasta. Only found in the wild, these mushrooms thrive in coniferous and deciduous woodlands and can grow very large, sometimes weighing over two pounds. Drying mushrooms intensifies their flavor, so a little goes a long way.
Pappardelle is a term from the Tuscan dialect "pappare",  designating a wide pasta strip. This pasta is a product of Italy.
This is a deliciously rich meat (beef and sausage) sauce for pasta that is enhanced with the flavor of dried porcini mushrooms. The soaking liquid for the mushrooms adds a deep, woodsy flavor to the resulting sauce.  If you can't find dried porcini mushrooms, you can substitute other varieites of dried mushrooms, such as shitake or black mushrooms.
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