“meaty” meatless bolognese

This one is courtesy of Giada DeLaurentiis, whom I saw make a version of this a few years ago on the Food Network when I was a) still watching regularly and b) when it featured more shows with people actually cooking (coincidence?!)

Vegetarian Bolognese: (Serves 6)

  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves (or 1 BIG clove!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (for cooking, eyeball it)
  • 2-3 teaspoons thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper OR
  • 1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 5 ounces assorted mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, portobello, brown), stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup red wine (depending on your volume of vegetables)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese OR 3 tbs. sour cream (you’re looking for the “milk” substitute)
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan


1) Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. (If you don’t have a food processor, just do a small chop on the vegetables, no worries).  Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.

2) Add the fresh mushrooms and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine (1/2 to 1 cup) and 1 cup of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese/sour cream and stir just until incorporated.

3) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.

Notes: I modified Giada’s recipe in light of economics.  Mascarpone cheese is more expensive than sour cream; you’re using those to stand in for the milk that would be in a conventional meat bolognese, so you can substitute what milk/cream/cheese you have on hand.  Also, she uses reconstituted porcini mushrooms and fresh herbs.  Tasty, but not recession-friendly.  Try to use the best red wine you can afford and would drink; I’d rather skip including it than use “cooking” wine but that’s just me.

Bon appetit!


Author: mskristenmd