home cooking

Bolognese for Vegetarians and Meat Eaters!

onion celery carrot mush

I find myself in a flurry of cooking and great ideas recently.  Mainly, I am all about cooking so that we have food during the week, and I don’t have to cook, or get takeout each night.  With that being said, I usually cook like it’s a job, sometimes taking photos for blogging and then forgetting to post it all, getting lost in the cooking and not enjoying the results.  My pledge has always been to remember to enjoy the cooking, not just doing it by rote.

A few weeks ago, I had another opportunity to cook with some colleagues, as a part of their year end retreat.  They looked at it as a cooking lesson, I looked at it as an opportunity to show friends that cooking isn’t all that hard and certainly even without the gear you see on TV and in the stores, you can make a serious dish, and make it easily.  So, we learned how to make pasta, without the rollers, by hand.  We did a white mushroom lasagna I made here.  We also made a tomatoes based lasagna with Swiss chard, and no-boil, store bought pasta.  Hands down, the homemade was the winner.  A few days later, one of the colleagues told me she made two dishes with the pasta recipe we made, and they were both excellent.  Mission accomplished!  I wish I had taken photos, but it’s hard to remember while you’re showing other people how to do something!  I’d love to have the opportunity to do that again and again, and get people cooking from scratch!

Another sweet thing that happened over the holidays, was that I gave my youngest niece the childhood cook book that I talked about in a past post (here). She was delighted, and wanted to know how old I was when I got the book.  I am pretty sure I was between 8 and 10, she is 7 by the way, and she seemed happy with that answer.  She then told me she was making one of the recipes in Play-Doh!  That’s a good start!  I look forward to choosing a few of the recipes and cooking them with her!

Which leads me to the recipe in the blog title.  Hubby is vegetarian, I am not, and I increasing find myself cooking separate dishes for both of us, which is double the work!  I can’t do the soy for dietary reasons,  and he can’t do meat.  So, when I found this recipe for white Bolognese, I realized we could have pretty much the same dinner, with the same flavors, and satisfy both of our dietary deals!  The full recipe is below, with the vegetarian options alongside the meaty ones.  It was spectacular, and this time, I just relaxed and allowed the satisfaction of cooking to take over!

The recipe calls for rigatoni, which honestly is the best pasta, with it’s ridges and places for sauce to gather!  You can use any pasta, for example pappardelli would be fab, Fettuccine too, even macaroni would do in a pinch, so experiment with what you have on hand.  Admittedly, I did have a lot of the ingredients on hand for both versions.  The base of the sauce is an onion/carrot/celery mush, but again, you can vary it depending upon what you have in the fridge, for example if you don’t have onion, use garlic, or add in some.  Definitely don’t skip the celery if you can manage it, it’s a flavor that adds a lot in the background.  You can add all kinds of herbs, as I did to duplicate the flavor profile on the vegetarian version.  For my Vegetarian version, I added dried fennel, since I couldn’t find vegetarian sausage flavored crumbles.  Here we go!

White bolognese:


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1/8ths)
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 6
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 6
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mild/sweet Italian pork sausage meat (1 bag of vegetarian crumbles, you can get Morningstar, or Quorn in the freezer section)
  • 1 pound ground beef (omit for vegetarian version)
  • (for Vegetarian version add in 1 tsp ground fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon dried basil, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, and some red pepper flakes of you like)
  • 1 ½ cups dry Italian white wine
  • 1 cube beef bouillon dissolved in 2 cups simmering water (use 2 cups warmed up veggie broth instead)
  • ½ cup heavy cream (don’t skimp!)
  • 1 pound rigatoni or other pasta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

The easy way to start this is to add the onion, carrots and celery to your food processor and pulse until they’re finely ground, but you can still recognize the vegetables.  The hard way is to finely chop them all by hand, it’s up to you!

In a large heavy bottomed pot, add enough olive oil so the bottom of the pan is covered completely with a thin film (about 2 tablespoons).  Warm this on medium for about 1 minute, watching so it doesn’t start to smoke or burn, then add in the pulverized vegetables and raise the heat slightly and saute them.  While stirring, add in a pinch of salt and several good grinds of pepper, or about 1/8 tsp of both, and if you’re making the Vegetarian version, add in the fennel, basil, oregano and pepper flakes.  When everything is translucent and fairly soft, but not colored, tip in the 2 meats and saute until cooked through, breaking it up as you go so they are in small pieces, about the size of an olive.  You will want to again raise the heat slightly but not to high.  If you’re using the Veggie crumbles, do the same, and stir them around until everything is well combined and the crumbles are completely defrosted and heated through.

The meat mixture will give off a great deal of liquid, so when you’re sure everything is fairly cooked through (probably 15 minutes on medium high) turn the heat all the way up and stir until the juices are reduced, almost dry.  Be very careful here, if the sides of the pan start to burn (as mine usually does)  turn the heat down slightly and allow for more reduction time. Once you can see the bottom of the pan while stirring, add in the broth/water and bullion, bring the pot to a boil (this goes for both versions), and start to stir again.  Once you’re confident everything is well combined, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to cook gently, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom.  Allow it to bubble away until the liquid is again, almost dry.  For the Vegetarian version, this should be between 15 – 20 minutes.  For the meat version this may take up to an hour.  Again, when you stir and see the clean bottom of the pan, you’re ready to go.  When you’re at this point, take the pot off the heat, add in the cream, stir well and keep covered off the heat but still on the stove.  Taste the sauce, it should be highly seasoned, but adjust it to your liking.

Make your pasta according to the package directions, and your taste. I would start the water to boil half way through the final reduction period, you can always cover it and allow it to keep a simmer until you add the cream to the sauce.  When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.  If the pasta looks dry, add enough of the pasta liquid and stir, you may not use all the water.  The big trick here is to stir like mad once you add the water, so that it is completely amalgamated into the pasta and sauce.  It won’t effect the taste at all, but will make it more silky if too dry.  When you serve, pass around the cheese and chow down!

This recipe is a little time consuming, but completely easy, and so delicious!  Yum!




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