A rich-tasting vegetarian Bolognese sauce for pasta, with savory mushrooms, red wine and tomato. This intensely flavorful sauce comes together in less than an hour. Pour a glass of vino and dine in tonight!
This post has been sponsored by La Cucina Italiana. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I can’t think of anything that makes a kitchen feel homier than cooking dinner in it.
This is an easy pasta dish that will make any night of the week feel like a special occasion.
Shouldn’t we all make that happen on a regular basis?
My answer is yes, a thousand times. I hope you agree.
Every night is pasta night
I love finding the best pasta recipes because we need pasta on a daily basis!
Mushroom pasta sauces hit all the flavor notes that make your mouth water – if you’ve made my Pappardelle with Mushroom Ragu you know what I mean.
We’re talking about an Italian-style “ragu”, a pasta sauce that tastes a-mazing.
It’s a vegetarian mushroom Bolognese sauce that’s meaty, savory and completely delicious.
Part of the secret to the intense flavor of the sauce has to do with umami.
Umami in mushrooms
Let’s talk for a second about a little thing called umami – an essential component in delicious-ness.
What is umami? (pronounced Ooh-Mommy)
It’s called the fifth taste, right after the big four: sweet, savory, salty, bitter and sour.
Basically, the easy way to define the intangible nature of umami is to just say it means “flavor bomb.”
Not to get too scientific, but umami is a taste sensation, made possible by a magical interaction of amino acids and other natural chemicals found in certain foods.
Five ingredients that are naturally rich in umami:
- Soy sauce
- Miso paste
- Aged cheeses (like Parmesan, of course)
So out of those top five, in this sauce the last three ingredients amplify each other to create amazing depth of flavor.
Mushrooms for Tomato pasta sauce
I made this recipe with a mix of fresh mushrooms I happened to have on hand:
Try half plain white button mushrooms with tasty shiitake, or go all portobello.
You can use any combo of mushrooms you like in the sauce.
Chop them into small chunks, which will give the sauce a great texture.
To really amp up the flavor, I grabbed some dried porcini mushrooms that have been hanging out in my spice cabinet.
I finely ground a small handful (1/3 cup) of dried porcini in a spice grinder and stirred the powder into the sauce.
Feel free to skip that step if you have trouble finding dried porcini, but know that you can find them in many supermarkets and online.
How make mushroom Bolognese
Along with the fresh ingredients (onion, celery, garlic, Parmesan, butter and thyme) this sauce calls for a couple pantry items:
- Tomato paste
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Chicken (or vegetable) stock.
I like to use a low-sodium broth since the sauce already has lots of flavor. You can use water instead of the broth.
Oh, and let’s not forget red wine!
I recommend a basic full-bodied red like malbec, zinfandel or similar wine you love to drink.
To make the sauce, start out with a large skillet – by large I mean one that’s 12-inches in diameter.
You want that larger surface area to ensure the sauce will quickly reduce to a thick consistency that clings to the pasta.
Sweat the onions in butter and olive oil, then add the mushrooms until they release their liquid.
Add the tomato paste, dried porcini and garlic and cook just a few seconds, until the garlic smells good.
Pour in the red wine to deglaze the pan, the stir in the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook about 10 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick.
Serve the mushroom Bolognese sauce with a chunky pasta shape (such as rigatoni) to best capture the sauce or with a wide noodle like pappardelle.
Mushroom Bolognese Pasta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
- 1 cup finely chopped onion, about 1 medium onion
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 pound (450 g) mixed mushrooms, finely chopped * see note
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
- 1/3 cup (10 g) dried porcini mushrooms, ground to a fine powder in a spice grinder(optional)
- 1/4 cup (55 g) tomato paste
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) full-bodied red wine, such as zinfandel or malbec
- 1 cup (240 ml) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup (242 g) crushed canned tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 pound (225 g) rigatoni pasta
- 1/4 cup (25 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add the onions and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes
- Stir in the mushrooms and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given up their liquid.
- Add the garlic, porcini mushrooms and tomato paste and cook a few seconds until fragrant. Pour in the wine and let it bubble. Add the broth, tomatoes and thyme, stirring it all together. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook 10-12 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.
- While the sauce cooks, cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain.
- Transfer the pasta to the skillet, stirring to coat with the sauce. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.
- Use a mixture of mushrooms for an interesting texture - I used shiitake, cremini, and portobello. Plain button mushrooms are good too!
- You can find dried porcini mushrooms in most supermarkets. They add a layer of flavor (umami!) but the sauce is equally delicious without them.