Mushroom Bolognese with Gemelli Pasta


By Priscilla Martel

Like many, I am looking for ways to eat more plant foods. Working on the update of On Cooking, we looked for delicious vegetarian dishes we could teach our student readers. We came up with a vegetarian riff on Italian Bolognese sauce. The mushrooms, tomato purée and a little dab of miso paste give this version some of the earthy meatiness. It’s delicious on gemelli or cavatelli cooked al dente so that there is still some chew. (And it would be even better on the whole grain rye gemelli made by Joel Gargano at his restaurant Grano in Chester, CT.)

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 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 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.

Photo credit: Priscilla Martel