Crimini Ragu with Spinach Crostini and Chicken Ragu with Whole Wheat Pasta
- 1 pound whole-wheat or whole-grain rigatoni or other short cut pasta
- 1 loaf crusty bread, bakery sliced ( baguette or ciabatta)
- 1 pound crimini mushrooms, wiped clean
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 pound pancetta, a couple thick slices, finely diced
- 1 1/2 pound chicken thighs, chopped into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium to large onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup Marsala, a couple glugs
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
- Couple handfuls fresh baby spinach
- Few grates nutmeg or a pinch of ground
- 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
- Splash heavy cream
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Handful basil leaves, torn
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook to al dente, drain and keep warm.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Scatter sliced bread on baking sheet, toast until crisp but not too dry, 6 to 8 minutes.
Quarter mushrooms. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Once the mushrooms have started to brown add 3 to 4 large cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
While mushrooms cook, begin chicken ragu. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Brown the pancetta 3 to 4 minutes then add chicken and brown evenly 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions to the chicken. Grate the carrot and stir in with the rosemary, bay and a couple of cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are soft.
Add the Marsala to chicken and vegetables, stir and reduce a minute then add tomatoes and crush with wooden spoon. Simmer a few minutes to thicken and combine flavors.
When the mushrooms are tender, season with salt and pepper. Chop the spinach coarsely then stir in to wilt. Add in a few grates of nutmeg, stir in vinegar then a splash of cream. Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and serve with toasted bread for topping.
Toss the pasta with the chicken ragu and cheese. Garnish with some torn basil and serve immediately.