Monday, January 25, 2016

Mushroom Bolognese

I feel like we ate really poorly during the holidays and well into 2016. Far too much meat and pastry, not nearly enough vegetables and whole grains. So I succumbed to the lure of a box of produce from Washington's Green Grocer, which was delivered on the same day that we happened to go grocery shopping. We ended up with a pound and a half of crimini mushrooms as a result (a bunch of other stuff, too).

Mushroom soup was almost an option, but I felt Mr Minx would be more satisfied by a pasta dish. Why not mince the mushrooms and use them as a meat substitute? So I put together a pretty delicious (if I do say so myself) vegetarian bolognese, using up a pound of the mushrooms in the process. I wanted to really up the umami factor, so we wouldn't miss the meat. Adding soy sauce and black garlic helped with that, and a bit of leftover ricotta (from our Christmas day lasagna) added a bit more richness to the sauce. One could leave out the ricotta and the Parm garnish and have a really nice vegan sauce, but I liked the cheesy additions.

Mushroom Bolognese

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb crimini mushrooms, washed, wiped, and finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cloves black garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 32-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
Pinch dried thyme
Pinch dried oregano
Pinch dried rosemary
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch smoked paprika
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Parm for serving

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes over medium high heat, until softened. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and celery. Cover the pan and sweat the mushrooms until they release all their liquid. After about 5 minutes, uncover the pan and turn the heat up to high to burn off any additional liquid.

Reduce the temperature to medium. Add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and stir the vegetables well to coat. Fry for about 2 minutes, then add the garlics and fry an additional minute. Stir in the soy and the tomato paste. Continue to cook the tomato paste veg mixture until the paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir well. Cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, stirring regularly; it should take only a minute or so.

Chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces by running a knife through them while still in the can. Dump the tomatoes and their juice into the frying pan and stir well. Turn heat down to low and simmer sauce for 1 hour. Check periodically to see if there's enough liquid in the pan; if not, add a bit of water. The sauce should be thick, but not dry.

Stir in the ricotta cheese. Season with the herbs. I don't like a particularly herby sauce, unless it's fresh basil, and our garden is pretty dead right now. Add more than a pinch of the herbs, if you'd like. The smoked paprika just makes it taste a little more meaty, and the parsley adds a bit of brightness.

Serve with pasta of your choice, sprinkled with Parm to finish.

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