Mushroom Sugo

A Genoese mushroom sauce for pasta or polenta, with dried porcinis, tomato, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and a little red wine. Sugo ai Funghi.

Mushroom Sugo
Elise Bauer

Here is one of our absolutely favorite sauces for pasta or polenta, a Genoese mushroom "sugo" or mushroom sauce.

The recipe comes from Darrell Corti of the Sacramento gourmet grocery Corti Bros. The recipe is Darrell's grandmother's and appeared in Saveur in 2001.

This recipe is a testament to the adage that good things take time. Although the ingredients couldn't be more simple, the slow cooking at various stages deeply enhances the flavors.

First dried porcini mushrooms are soaked in water to rehydrate them. Then "minced" onions are slowly cooked in olive oil until they begin to caramelize and turn a rich golden color. Then carrots are added, cooked for a while, then celery, and finally garlic and herbs.

Mushroom Sugo
Elise Bauer

After the wine, tomato sauce, mushroom soaking water and mushrooms are added, the sauce still cooks for another hour and a half.

The sauce is so good I just want to eat it straight with a spoon! (And I will if it's anywhere in reaching distance). It shines over polenta, ravioli, or a short pasta like penne or fusilli.

Recipe published with permission of Darrell Corti.

Mushroom Sugo

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Servings 8 servings

The onions cook for a long time, during which you can prep the rest of the vegetables if you want to save some time. If you are using dry herbs, use half as much. The mincing is important, as the sauce is not strained or puréed.


  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and minced (yielding about 2 cups minced onion)

  • 2 carrots, peeled and minced (yielding about 1 1/2 cups minced carrots)

  • 3 celery ribs, minced (yielding about 1 1/2 cups minced celery)

  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

  • 1 bunch parsley, minced (yielding 1/3 cup loosely packed)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh marjoram (We didn't have marjoram growing, so we used fresh oregano instead, which has a similar flavor.)

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1 beef bouillon cube (use vegetable bouillon cube for vegetarian option)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Soak dry mushrooms in water:

    Place dry mushrooms to soak in a bowl with 2 cups of warm water. Set aside.

    soak dry mushrooms for mushroom sugo
    Elise Bauer
  2. Slowly cook minced onions until deep golden:

    Heat olive oil in a medium, thick-bottomed pot (4 or 5 quart) over medium heat. Add the minced onions and stir to coat with the olive oil.

    Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a deep golden color, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust the heat lower if necessary to keep the onions from drying out.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  3. Add carrots, celery, garlic, herbs in stages:

    Add the minced carrots and cook for 5-6 more minutes. Add the celery and cook until soft, about 10 more minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. Cook for 4-5 minutes more.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  4. Remove the porcini from the soaking liquid, reserving the liquid:

    The easiest way to do this we found is to pour the porcini and soaking liquid through a coffee filter, into a bowl or measuring cup. This helps remove any grit that may be lingering in the soaking liquid.

    Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the vegetables in the pot.

    Elise Bauer
  5. Add wine:

    Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and increase the heat to high. Add the 1/2 cup of red wine to the side of the pot without the vegetables and cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes.

    Elise Bauer
  6. Add remaining ingredients and simmer:

    Add the tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups of the mushroom soaking liquid, the bouillon cube (break it up with your fingers as you add it), and the bay leaf to the pot.

    Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Add ground black pepper to taste. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Discard the bay leaf.

    Elise Bauer

    Serve over polenta or toss with ravioli or other pasta.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
129 Calories
7g Fat
13g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 129
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 416mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 12mg 62%
Calcium 43mg 3%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 413mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.