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Mushroom Ragu Pizza

July 24, 2007

Ragu Pizza

Ever since I made a chicken cacciatore pizza, I’ve been pondering other different and unexpected things to put on pizza, and the thing that kept running through my head was an incredibly rich and tangy mushroom ragu I made last winter. It seemed a perfect thing for pizza–the sauce and toppings all in one, and with two familiar pizza components, sausage and mushrooms, with a little twist. Different, unexpected, potentially awesome. I had to try it.

I’ve been having some serious dough problems lately, though. More than anything else I’ve experimented with, pizza dough seems to be the most difficult to perfect. It turns out sticky, or too stiff, or rises too much or not enough. I can’t seem to figure out that brilliant tossing technique to get perfect, round, even surfaces. I end up with holes all over and dough that sticks to the surface and is impossible to slide onto the pizza stone. I just can’t seem to figure this one out, and whenever I do end up with a good batch, it seems like a fluke. Well, I’ve given up on Giada’s dough, after three out of four experiments have turned out badly, and this time I decided to go back to Peter Reinhart‘s recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough, from American Pie.

This time I made the full batch, which is far more than enough for one pizza. I put all the extra in the freezer, remembering that one of the easiest doughs I’ve worked with so far was one that had been in the freezer for something like three weeks. I’m hoping that will do the trick, because after an hour and a half of rising, and then eight hours in the refrigerator yesterday and 45 minutes to come to room temperature, the dough wasn’t that easy to deal with at all. I perservered and eventually managed to make it mostly round and mostly even. But I had to assemble my whole pizza on the already very hot pizza stone in the oven, because it was just too sticky to be able to successfully transfer to the oven once everything was on it. And I burned the crap out of my hand. All of this is starting to make me wonder why I’m so obsessed with making pizza.

I did made the ragu a little differently from last time. I found these gorgeous mushrooms at Trader Joe’s. Yes, let me go on a bit more about Trader Joe’s and how much I love it.

Exotic Mushrooms for $3

Look at that: creminis and oysters and shiitakes, and a lot of them, for $3. And even after almost a week in the refrigerator they were in perfect condition, and barely even dirty. Things like this make me happy. I’m tempted to buy a car for the sole reason that I will be able to go to Trader Joe’s whenever I want. Well, and I’m obsessing about cars right now, but that’s a different story.

This ragu recipe started from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, but has been so bastardized by me that I feel safe saying it’s kind of my own now. I originally made it to go with gnocchi, but it really is a terrific pizza topping, and I bet it would be awesome on cheese tortellini, or fettucini, or even mashed freaking potatoes. I could drink this stuff straight up, it’s so good. It’s not particularly summery, especially because it involves being near the stove for 45 minutes, but it’s worth it.

Mushroom Sausage Ragu

  • 3 links of hot Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 a white onion, diced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, any variety, roughly chopped into quarters
  • 2-3 T. red wine
  • 1/3 c. tomato paste
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and pepper (probably less than a teaspoon each)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, and when it’s very hot, add the sausages, removed from their casings. Use the back of a spoon to break up the sausages, and cook them all the way through, until there’s hardly any pink left at all. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage from the pan, so there’s still plenty of sausage grease in the pan, and let the sausage sit on a paper towel or something.

Lovely mushrooms

Depending on how much fat the sausage released, you might want to add just a titch more olive oil. Add the onions and cook them for about a minute, until they are goldeny colored. Then add the mushrooms, spread them into a layer in the bottom of the skillet, lower the heat a bit, and cover the skillet. Let them cook, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring maybe once at the 10 minute mark.

Remove the lid and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Stir it all up a bit and scrape up some of the browned bits at the bottom of the skillet. Then add the tomato paste, water, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper and stir it all together until the tomato paste is well mixed with everything else. Then turn the heat up again and let it all cook down for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens up nicely.

Once the sauce has thickened you can add the sausage back in. For the pizza, I spread the sauce onto the dough, and then added the sausage on top of that. I topped it all with just a bit of mozzarella and baked it for 10 minutes.

This crust did turn out pretty well, despite the difficulty of dealing with it at the beginning of this whole process. The burn on my hand, however, is pretty hideous.

Crusty crust

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