Pasta-Risotto-Polenta, Sauces

Mushroom “Bolognese”

You won’t believe there isn’t any meat in this in this Mushroom “Bolognese”.  The mushrooms mimic the same rich, hearty texture and taste of the meat.  Roasting the mushrooms first concentrates their flavor.  Avoid the urge to salt your mushrooms before roasting. Mushrooms retain a lot of moisture, which salt will leach out, resulting in limp, steamed, and not-at-all-brown mushrooms.  Ordinary mushrooms you can buy at the grocery store work just fine.  But you can also mix in some wild mushrooms for extra flavor or some re-hydrated dried mushrooms.  Use the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms to replace some of the beef stock. 

Mushrooms are loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and plenty of vitamins. Plus, they’re super low in calories!  Replacing the meat in traditional Bolognese with mushrooms lightens up the sauce, making it a healthier alternative without sacrificing flavor.  Tomato paste is a must!  Not only does it add color, body, and bright acidity, but it also ups the savoriness and complexity factor.  The trick, however, is to sizzle it in the pan until it turns brick red in color. Allowing it to caramelize takes away the raw tomato flavor and unlocks its full flavor potential.  If you prefer a more tomato-forward sauce, add a cup or so of my favorite Mezzetta Spicy Marinara.  This complex and satisfying sauce comes together in less than an hour.  Pour yourself a glass of vino and enjoy!

Mushroom “Bolognese”

An Italian-style ragu made without meat. An intensely flavorful sauce with mushrooms, red wine, tomato, and soffritto. Excellent for pasta, polenta, or baked in lasagna.
Author Rosalie D’Amico


  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms (or mixed wild mushrooms)
  • ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms rehydrated, reserve soaking liquid (optional)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 3/3
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 1/1
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large leek, about 1½ cups, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • teaspoon chili pepper flakes (more or less to your taste)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (see notes for my new recommendation)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • cups beef stock (or other liquid, see notes)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley


  • Preheat oven to 400° convection.
  • Quickly rinse the mushrooms. Dry thoroughly and slice. Do not add salt. Toss with 3 tablespoons of oil and spread out evenly in one layer on a sheet pan. Use more than one pan if necessary.
  • Cook for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes, until nicely browned. This might take longer depending on your oven or the amount of water in the mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. If you are using additional dried mushrooms, cover with room temperature water and set aside to re-hydrate.
  • Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 tablespoon butter to a saucepan over medium heat for the soffritto. Separately chop the carrot, leek, garlic and celery in the food processor until finely chopped. Chopping each separately will insure everything is the same size. Add to heated saucepan along with the rosemary, thyme, chili pepper flakes and nutmeg and cook stirring frequently for about 15 minutes until soft, translucent and lightly browned. Cook slowly so the vegetables develop maximum flavor.
  • Add the tomato paste; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, add the cooled mushrooms (and the re-hydrated, drained, dried mushrooms) to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add the chopped mushrooms and red wine to the soffritto. Cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add the beef stock (or other liquid) and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter and parsley.


Soffritto is from the Italian verb soffriggere, which means “to stir fry” or “sauté”. It is essentially a base that consists of minced vegetables, which are sautéed in olive oil or butter to develop richer flavor. Basic soffritto only calls for onions, carrots, and celery. Often other vegetables, herbs, and spices are added.
Tomato Paste: I recently discovered Bionaturae tomato paste. A product of Italy, the flavor is truly exceptional.
Variations: If you added some dried mushrooms, use the mushroom soaking liquid as all or part of the beef stock. This will amp up the flavor of the mushrooms as well as make the sauce vegetarian. Although you can use vegetable stock instead of beef stock in a vegetarian version, the flavor of the sauce will be somewhat diluted.
Mushroom “Bolognese” in Saucepan