October 8, 2010

Vegetable Bolognese: A Stovetop Makeover to a Traditional Favorite

Hearty and healthy, this vegetable bolognese was an experiment in using the traditional method of making a bolognese using untraditional ingredients. Bolognese, usually a rich sauce cooked with hearty hunks of ground or shredded meat in cream and wine, could certainly use a lightening up for everyday eating. I craved the flavor, but not the heaviness.

I decided to use mushrooms for their meaty consistency and flavor, along with tender and sweet carrots and fresh diced tomatoes. The result was wonderful: a robust sauce flavored with slow-simmered vegetables in a savory blend of broth and spices, with heavenly undertones of garlic and onion and just a dash of milk and parmesan for a hint of creaminess.

Pair this sauce with your favorite whole-grain or wheat pasta for even more filling nutrition. This vegetable bolognese has all of the teaste of comforting, homemade Italian dinner without any reason to hesitate heading to the pot for seconds.

Vegetable Bolognese: serves 2
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. Sea salt
1 small can mushrooms, drained, rinsed and pressed, then diced into small pieces
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced into 1" pieces, juices reserved
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/8 cup milk (preferably whole)
4 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 T. dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste

1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta, cooking water reserved

In a large pot, set the olive oil and butter to melt together over medium heat. Add the onion and stir 4-5 minutes until tender, then add the garlic and salt and stir another minute. Add the mushrooms and carrots and saute for a few minutes, then stir together with the tomatoes and tomato paste. Deglaze the bottom of the pan with a dash of the vegetable stock, scraping up all of the cooked bits, then pour in the rest of the stock. Simmer until everything is tender and incorporated, and meanwhile cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.

When the pasta is done cooking and the vegetables are tender, stir in the milk and parmesan cheese, then salt and pepper to taste. Add reserved cooking water one T. at a time if needed. Stir in dried parsley and top the pasta with the sauce. Serve with extra parmesan cheese on the side.

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