This Italian mushroom stew is a rustic stew that is traditional to Utica, NY. This recipe is made with pork, Italian sausage, tomato sauce and lots and lots of mushrooms. Served over Italian bread it is delicious comfort food!
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This hearty mushroom stew is a staple Italian American dish that is popular in Utica, NY. While some traditional Central New York foods have become well known, like Utica Greens, this Italian mushroom stew recipe is rarely seen outside the Utica area.
I moved to Utica right after I graduated from college and it is where I met and fell in love with my husband. We worked together and used to go out to lunch at a local bar where they served Italian mushroom stew once a week. So while this isn’t a well known recipe it is one we have always loved.
Utica used to be a very heavily Italian American town and every Italian cook had their own version of mushroom stew. In recent years Utica has become more diverse, but mushroom stew is still popular in the area. You can find a version of it at almost any Italian restaurant in Utica – and there are lots of Italian restaurants in Utica!
What Are the Key Ingredients for Utica Mushroom Stew?
There are many, many different ways to make Utica mushroom stew. Every cook makes little changes to the recipe to put their own stamp on it. But there are three ingredients that almost every recipe includes:
If you have these three key ingredients you are on your way to making a tasty stew. This is my version of mushroom stew, but it is an easy recipe to adapt.
What Kind of Mushrooms Should I use in Stew?
The best mushrooms to use in this stew are ones that will add woodsy flavor and depth to the stew. The white button mushrooms that you find cheaply at the grocery store are not ideal.
You will have a tastier stew if you use porcini mushrooms or portobello mushrooms. If you can find them and are willing to spend more shiitake, morels or oyster mushrooms are excellent as well.
I like to buy a small package of mixed variety mushrooms and use that along with portobello mushrooms. That way I get a few different types of mushrooms without spending too much money.
Remaining Ingredients for Utica Mushroom Stew
You can use almost any kind of pork in this recipe. Pork chops, pork butt or Italian sausage are all frequently used in the stew. Veal is also sometimes used, but I prefer not to cook with veal. You could, of course, leave out the meat and make a hearty vegetarian mushroom stew.
Utica mushroom stew is supposed to be a red, tomato based stew. You can use tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, but it has to be red!
I use onion, celery and green pepper in my mushrooms stew. All three are pretty traditional and commonly found in the stew. The celery goes very well with mushrooms and enhances their flavor.
Some cooks insist on only using Cubanelle peppers instead of green peppers. Other cooks use hot peppers in the recipe to make it spicier. Fresh herbs like basil or parsley add some delicious flavor to the stew.
No matter what vegetables you add they are there to support the mushrooms. So there should be a lot more mushrooms in the stew than any of the other vegetables.
How to Make Italian Mushroom Stew
1. Brown the Meat
The first step in making the stew is to brown the pork and sausage in a little bit of olive oil. Use a large heavy stock pot to make the stew and brown the meat right in the stock pot. Once the meat is browned remove it from the pan and set it aside for a few minutes.
2. Soften the Vegetables
Next add the garlic, celery and onion to the pot and saute over medium heat. Stir for about 5 minutes until the onion has started to soften. Note that you don’t add the peppers or mushrooms in this step!
3. Deglaze the Pot
Deglaze the pot by adding a 1/2 cup of water and stirring well. Make sure you get any browned bits off the bottom of the stockpot so the stew will not stick. You can leave the onions and celery in while you deglaze.
4. Add Most of the Remaining Ingredients
Now it is time to add most of the remaining ingredients to the stew. Return the browned meat to the pot, along with the tomato sauce, herbs and spices. At this point you have added all the ingredients except the peppers and the mushrooms.
5. Add the Green Peppers
Once the stew has reached a boil add the green peppers and stir to mix. Then bring the mixture back to a boil.
6. Add the Mushrooms
After the stew has come back to a boil add in the mushrooms and stir to mix them in. Adding the green peppers and mushroom to the boiling stew instead of softening them first gives the stew some of its distinct flavor.
7. Simmer the Stew
Stir the stew well, then cover and let simmer for 1-2 hours. Check it periodically and make sure it is not too thick. If it starts to thicken and stick to the bottom of the stock pot add another half cup of water.
The amount of water released by the mushrooms will vary, depending on what type you used. So you might have to add water or, if the stew is too thin, take the lid off and let some water evaporate. Use your own judgement based on how thick or thin you want the sauce to be.
I’d recommend not adding tomato paste to the stew to thicken it. It will overwhelm the taste of the mushrooms, which is kind of the entire point of this meal!
One thing to keep in mind when making Italian mushroom stew is that it is not supposed to end up being a marinara sauce. It is a stew, so it should be soupy and not thick.
Meal Prep Dish
Italian Mushroom stew makes an excellent make ahead meal. It actually tastes better if it cools and is gently reheated. So it is perfect for making a big pot on the weekend while you are doing meal prep for the week. Then reheat it on low heat later in the week.
Can I Freeze Italian Mushroom Stew?
This dish freezes very well. Simply ladle the cooled stew into freezer containers and it will keep well in the freezer for up to three months. There is really no loss of flavor from freezing this stew.
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How to Serve Utica Mushroom Stew
You can serve mushroom stew almost any way you like. Some people put it over pasta or over polenta. Sometimes I just serve it in a bowl, as a stew all by itself.
But the traditional way to serve Utica mushroom stew is over slices of crusty Italian bread. Put a couple slices of bread on a plate and then ladle the stew over the top.
Top it off with a little bit more basil and maybe some Parmesan cheese and this tasty dinner is complete. Use a knife and fork to cut the bread and eat the stew, sopping up all the sauce with the bread.
This recipe takes a little bit of time to make, but it is mostly hands off time while the stew cooks. This stew is an excellent example of a simple, rustic recipe that was designed to feed a large family inexpensively.
So even if you’ve never been to Utica, NY and never plan to visit give this recipe a try! It is a delicious and filling stew that makes excellent comfort food.
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound cubed pork, from pork loin
- 1 pound Italian sausage, sliced (hot or sweet)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- 2 12 oz cans tomato sauce
- 2 large green peppers, chopped
- 2 pounds mushrooms, chopped (portobello, porcini, shiitake, oyster)
- Heat a large stock pot over medium heat. Add 1 T olive oil.
- Brown the cubed pork and sliced sausage in the oil. Stir until no longer pink. Remove the browned meat and set aside for a few minutes.
- In the same pot add the garlic, onion and celery. Saute for 5 minutes until the vegetables just start to soften.
- Add the water to the stock pot and stir to deglaze. Make sure no bits of meat or vegetables are stuck on the bottom of the pot.
- Return the meat to the pan, along with the basil, oregano, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add the two cans of tomato sauce to the pot and stir well. Bring to a boil.
- Once the pot has reached a boil add the green peppers and stir well.
- Bring back to a boil. Once the stew has reached a boil again add the mushrooms and stir well. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1-2 hours. Check the pot every half hour, stir, and make sure the stew is not sticking to the bottom. If it is too thick add another 1/2 cup of water. The stew should have a soupy consistency.
- Serve over sliced Italian bread or pasta. Top with more basil and Parmesan cheese if desired.
The flavor of this stew improves with rest. So it is an excellent dish to make ahead of time or freeze for later use.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 439Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 91mgSodium: 1171mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 33g