Shitake Bolognese

I shared on Monday that we were anxiously awaiting the birth of a baby granddaughter and I’m pleased to tell you that, we’re still waiting! Impatiently?  Just a little, perhaps it will be today, or maybe tomorrow, but whenever the big day arrives, we’re quite confident it will be the perfect timing. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16
It always amazes me how much time and energy it takes to acclimate to a new baby. In order to be available to help the new mommy and daddy, I’ve arranged for a few guest bloggers at The Café over the next month. I’m thrilled for you to meet some of my amazing friends; like Sue, who blogs over at The View from Great Island. I get Sue’s posts in my email and when there’s a new one, well, let’s just say my fingers don’t walk, they RUN to her blog to check it out. And I’m never disappointed!
I’m honored to be guest blogging for Chris today— The Café Sucré Farine is one of my favorite blogs, and I hope I can help relieve a little bit of the pressure for her as she awaits the arrival of her new granddaughter. It should be any minute now!

Aren’t these mushrooms gorgeous? The beautiful crackled patterns caught my eye from clear across the street at the farmer’s market this past weekend. They’re Shitake flower mushrooms… distinguished by the beautiful patterns etched into their surface. They’re sold dried as well as fresh, like these.

My husband and I almost didn’t go to the farmer’s market this past Sunday. You have to get there early, it’s a schlepp, the parking is horrific, and over the years it’s gotten so crowded. We have to slather on sunscreen, stop at the bank to get cash, and, once we get there, dodge all manner of strollers, double strollers, and bizarre market baskets on wheels. Southern Californians are serious about their farmers’ markets; it’s no walk in the park, believe me. Don’t even think about cutting in line for the rainbow chard, or sticking your toothpick in the kumquat sample that someone else has their eye on… It can get pretty ugly.

But once we’re there we are always so glad we came. Every week there is something that makes the trip worthwhile, like these spectacular mushrooms.
They’ll replace the meat in this vegetarian Bolognese sauce with their unique texture and earthy flavor.

The key to a good Bolognese, with or without meat, is the long slow cooking, both of the finely chopped onion and carrot, which form the base of the sauce, and the sauce itself. In this case, I’ve used a method of dry cooking the chopped mushrooms before adding them to the rest of the vegetables. This intensifies their flavor, which is important because they’re replacing the all important meat in this sauce.

Allow a good couple of hours to make this sauce. The long simmering time allows the sauce to get rich and thick. It’s based on a classic Bolognese, but I don’t think you’ll miss the meat at all, the mushrooms are so satisfying. The good news is that you can make it ahead and it will actually improve as it sits in the fridge. And it makes fabulous leftovers. 
Shitake Bolognese
serves 4 
3 to 4 Tbsp olive oil 
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped in small dice
1 hot red pepper, diced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz shitake mushrooms, cut in small dice (you can substitute portobello or cremini) 
2 fresh tomatoes, cut in small dice
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste (I always keep a tube in the refrigerator)
3/4 cup good red wine
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 
1 cup water
several sprigs of fresh thyme 
salt and fresh cracked black pepper 
2 bay leaves
a splash of heavy cream
shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with oil.  Saute the onions, carrots, garlic and pepper uncovered for about 45 minutes over low heat.  Stir often.  You want the vegetables to soften and get slightly browned by the end.  Add more oil if the mixture dries out and sticks to the pan.
  • Meanwhile dry roast the mushrooms in a large saute pan.  Stir them over medium heat until they start to brown and become fragrant.  This will take about 5 minutes, don’t let them burn.
  • Add them to the carrots and onions, along with the fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes, paste, wine, vinegar and water.  Bring up to a simmer.  Add the thyme, salt and pepper and bay leaves.
  • Simmer, covered, for a minimum of an hour, stirring every so often.  I cooked mine for about 90 minutes.  Add more water if the sauce gets too thick.  If the sauce seems thin, leave the top off for the last bit of cooking.
  • When the sauce is done, check the seasoning, remove the bay leaves and the stems of thyme (the leaves will have fallen off during cooking).  Stir in a splash of heavy cream.
  • Serve over wide pappardelle pasta, with a generous amount of shaved Parmesan cheese.

This was really good. If you’re vegetarian, trying to cut back on red meat, or just love mushrooms, I think you’ll be pleased with this one. 


Good luck with the new grand-baby Chris!

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