Friday, March 28, 2014

Mushroom Bolognese

When one thinks of a Bolognese, it is a sauce made with onions, celery, tomatoes and cheese, with meat.  Beef, pork or lamb.  One never thinks of a vegetarian Bolognese and a vegan Bolognese gives me the shivers.  A true Bolognese has been on my short list of dishes to make.  However, because Clare does not eat beef, pork or lamb, that dish has to wait for a night when I am only cooking for myself.  

In the meantime, I decided that I would make a Bolognese recipe that Clare would eat.  I found a recipe by Sarah Grueneberg, a Top Chef contestant, which provided a good starting point.  The one thing that caught my attention was the use of a variety of ingredients at the outset ... not just onions, carrots and celery (which are usually found in Bolognese sauces), but also parsnips and turnips.   Grueneberg's recipe also calls for the use of dried porcini mushrooms and king oyster mushrooms.  The latter mushrooms are chopped with the vegetable mixture, while the former provide the "meat" in the dish.

I decided to alter the dish in a few ways.  First, there was the mushrooms.  Rather than use porcini and king oyster mushrooms, I used a combination of portobello, oyster and shiitake mushrooms.  I decided to use half with the vegetable mixture and keep half sliced to serve with the pasta.  The substitution of these mushrooms for the porcini created another issue.  This led to the second substitution.  Grueneberg relied upon the water from rehydrating the porcini for the sauce.  I needed something in place of that liquid.  This was not really a problem at all.  I used about 1 cup of vegetable stock in place of the porcini water.

The third substitution involves the pasta.  Grueneberg uses spaghetti in her recipe.  When it comes to a Bolognese, I think that a flat pasta is better, because it shows off all of the elements in the sauce.   Fettuccine would work well with this recipe; however, if you can find pappardelle, that is the pasta of choice.  Its wide flat noodles provide the most space for the Bolognese sauce to cling to the pasta. 

Finally, the recipe calls for the use of 1/2 cup of wine.  Given that I was making a Bolognese sauce, a wine from Emilia-Romagna -- the region where Bologna is located -- would have been the ideal choice.  I could not put my hands on a non-sparking wine from the region, such as a Sangiovese di Romagna.  So, I went with a Sangiovese wine that is a lot easier to find ... a Chianti Classico from Tuscany.

Adapted from a recipe by Sarah Grueneberg 
and available at Food & Wine
and some other recipes

1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
1 medium parsnip, chopped
1/2 small turnip, chopped
3 ounces of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces of portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 ounces of oyster mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry red wine (preferably Sangiovese)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 1/2 pounds of pappardelle (or fettuccine)
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1. Prepare the vegetable base.  Pulse the onion, carrot, celery, parsnip, turnip and one-half of the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped  In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 20 minutes. 

2. Make the Bolognese sauce.  Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the wine and red pepper, and cook until the wine evaporates.  Add the vegetable stock, cover partially and cook over low heat, stirring until thick, about another 25 minutes.  Add the cream, rosemary and 1/4 cup of grated cheese and simmer for 5 minutes. 

3. Cook the pasta.  Heat a pot with salted water until it boils.  Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.  (Generally, dried pasta takes several minutes while fresh pasta only takes about 1 to 2 minutes.)

4.  Finish the dish.  Add the warm pasta, butter and 1 cup of water to the sauce and toss, stirring until the pasta is well coated.  Serve immediately.


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