Last weekend, our neighborhood held its annual Halloween party. Letters with details of the event were distributed ahead of time and our assigned contribution to the pot luck affair was spaghetti. I had been experimenting a lot with mushrooms and, after the very successful linguine with tomato-sour cream mushroom sauce, I decided to prepare a mushroom-based sauce for the Halloween party. But since most Filipinos are unfamiliar with anything other than the ground meat-tomato pasta sauce, I thought it wiser to make the sauce a combination of mushrooms and ground meat. I set aside a bowl of spaghetti for Alex and, watching her devour it, I knew that everyone at the party would enjoy it too.
I used shiitake mushrooms for the sauce which, for me, is one of the most flavorful varieties of mushroom. If you prefer something with a milder flavor and aroma, use oyster mushrooms or whatever your preference is.
The amount of ingredients given below should yield enough for ten people IF the spaghetti dish is only one of many main dishes to be served. If it is the only main dish, the yield would be good for six to seven people depending, of course, on how much each person can consume.
- 250 grams spaghetti cooked al dente
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 10 large dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in 2 c. of warm water for at least 20 minutes
- 250 grams ground meat (I used pork but you can substitute beef, chicken or turkey)
- 2 cups diced stewed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- sugar to taste
- 18 sweet basil leaves thinly sliced
- parsley chopped, to garnish
- cheese shredded
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium-low heat until softened.
Meanwhile, drain the mushrooms (reserve the soaking water). Discard the stalks.
Roughly chop the mushroom caps. Add to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for another minute.
Add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for about a minute.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender. Add the water in which the mushrooms were soaked. Pulse a few times to grind the mushrooms coarsely.
Heat the frying pan. The bottom is already coated with oil so there is no need to add any. Cook the ground meat over high heat, stirring to break up any lumps, until lightly browned.
Add the tomato paste and oregano to the pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes or until the pieces of pork has absorbed the color of the tomato paste.
Pour in the mushroom mixture, including the liquid, and stewed tomatoes. Stir. Taste. Add more salt and pepper, as needed, and a bit of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomato paste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until thickened. A minute before turning off the heat, stir in the basil leaves and adjust the seasonings one last time, if needed.
Toss the cooked spaghetti with the sauce. Transfer to a serving platter or tray. Top with shredded cheese. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve.