Like many, I am looking for ways to eat more vegetables. 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.

For a simple 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. Whether you chop the mushrooms by hand or in a food processor impacts the texture of the finished sauce. Mushrooms pureed in the food processor are denser. Your sauce will be more homogeneous and more closely resemble a sauce made with meat.

The first forkful shows the sauce with the mushrooms finely pureed.

Bolognese finely chopped mushrooms

The second forkful shows the sauce with the mushrooms chopped more coarsely by hand .

Mushroom Bolognese, Gemelli Pasta


Either way you chop the mushrooms, this Bolognese sauce is 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.)

And for those of you who are wondering, here is how we present the dish in the book.  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. (Talented Phoenix-based photographer Debby Wolvos took this shot.)

Mushroom Bolognese Debby Wolvos Skip Hause

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


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


  1. Chop the mushrooms into ¼-inch pieces. You can do this by hand or in a food processor.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy saucepan. Add the onions, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring a few times until the vegetables soften without browning, for about 5 to 7 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, thyme, 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.