For the dried mushroom-enriched stock:
- 1 bulb garlic, ends trimmed
- 1 leek, quartered
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 2 carrots, quartered
- 2 ribs celery with leafy tops
- ½ bulb fennel
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dried mushrooms, mixed or porcini
- A drizzle or spray of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
For the Meatless Tuscan-Style Ragu:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, finely chopped
- ½ bulb fennel, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic , sliced
- 12 leaves sage , thinly sliced or chopped
- 3 to 4 sprigs rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped (about 2½ tablespoons)
- Salt and white pepper
- One 12-ounce package plant-based meat alternative (Rach likes Impossible brand)
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste or sundried tomato paste
- 1 cup Italian red wine, such as Rosso di Montalcino
- 2 cups dried mushroom-enriched stock
- 1 pound pici or bucatini pasta
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
For the stock, preheat oven to 400˚F, add stock ingredients to a large oven-safe pot, coat with EVOO and roast 30 minutes to lightly brown. Add water to come to top of vegetables, turn oven up to 425˚F, and roast 1 hour to reduce by a third. Let cool to room temperature and strain.
For the meatless ragu, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Heat a Dutch oven or large saucepot over medium heat with EVOO, add carrot, celery, fennel, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, salt and white pepper and soften 5 to 7 minutes. Add meat alternative or meat, crumble and let the color change but do not brown the protein. Add paste and stir a minute or 2, add wine and let it absorb, add the stock and bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to low and gently simmer 30 minutes.
Salt water and cook the pasta to al dente; for dried pici, that is about 22 minutes. Reserve about ¾ cup of cooking water, then drain pasta. Combine the pasta with about ⅔ of the sauce, the reserved water and the grated cheese, toss 1 minute and serve in shallow bowls topped with remaining sauce.