Like many, I am looking for ways to eat more plant foods. For the update of On Cooking: a Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals, we spend a good deal of time researching delicious vegetarian dishes we can teach our student readers.  Skip Hause, my coauthor and I developed a recipe for Mushroom Bolognese for the 6th edition of our book. It is a vegetarian riff on the classic Italian sauce.

Here is how we present the dish in the book. (Talented Phoenix-based photographer Debby Wolvos took this shot.) Skip chose lobster, king oyster, portobello and other mushrooms that are not easily available for a home cook.  (You might find some of these at a trip to Whole Foods.) He dices, chops and slices the mushrooms to give the plated dish an interesting look.  And he garnishes the plate with carrot fronds, a nice way of turning scrap into something useful and delicious.

Mushroom Bolognese Debby Wolvos Skip Hause

For a simpler home version of the recipe, I blend button and cremini mushrooms that I buy at the local grocery store. Mushrooms, especially wild varieties if you can find them, give it a satisfying meaty taste as does the miso paste. It’s delicious on gemelli or cavatelli cooked al dente so that there is still some chew.   (And it would be even better served on the whole grain rye gemelli made by Joel Gargano at his restaurant Grano in Chester, CT.)

Kitchen Notebook: If you need another reason to reduce or eliminate meat from your diet consider this.  According to the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard School of Public Health’s Menus of Change Report, reducing beef consumption will make a bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions than changing our driving habits.

Mushroom Bolognese with Gemelli Pasta

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

Ingredients

1 pound mushrooms, button, portobello, cremini or any combination, washed and dried
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions, about 2 small onions
½ cup diced carrot, about 1 fat carrot
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
⅓ cup red wine
1 ½ cups canned tomato purée
¼ teaspoon hot red red pepper flakes
A sprig fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons water
½ teaspoon miso paste, optional
½ to ¾ pound gemelli or cavatelli pasta
Chopped parsley, black olives and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as needed

Directions

  1. Chop the mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces. You can do this by hand or in a food processor.
  2. Heat the olive over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring a few times until the vegetables soften without browning, for about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped mushrooms. Cook them for 15 to 20 minutes until they soften and the liquid released evaporates.
  4. Stir in the red wine and cook until it evaporates, for about 5 more minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato purée, red pepper flakes, water and miso paste, if using. Bring the sauce back to a simmer then cover and let it cook slowly for about 15 minutes. Stir the sauce a few times to keep it from sticking.
  6. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package instructions or your taste.
  7. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley, black olives and a grating of cheese.