March 18, 2014

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

I should have posted this last week before I went on vacation, but I was so excited and trying to get as much done at work as possible before I left that it sort of slipped my mind. Likewise, I forgot to take an actual photo of anything, because I was too anxious to eat, and all I have to show for this feast is a Vine video and the oohs and aahs of the friends who ate it.

This is one of my favorite pasta dishes to make because it is hearty and rich and feels like a special treat, but it has no meat and makes me feel a little better about myself when I eat seconds.  Next time I am going to toss in some kale or chard at the end to really amp up the veg factor. 

This recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis, who I love, and her cookbook was the first I bought, a very long time ago when I barely had any interest in cooking. She makes things look so simple and delicious, she convinced me that I could do it!  This is definitely not the first recipe I have made from Giada, and it won't be the last, but so far, it is my favorite and the one I have made the most frequently.  You could just as easily have this sauce with polenta or some other type of noodle, or use it in a lasagna or any way you would use a regular meat bolognese! 

One note:  definitely do not skip the dried mushrooms, and get the best ones you can find. These mushrooms really amp up the flavor and add a richness to the sauce that is missing if you don't use the dried mushrooms plus their liquid.

Vegetable Bolognese
Slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 carrots, peeled and diced 
1 onion, peeled and diced 
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves 

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup Parmesan

Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups very hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.
Remove the thyme and oregano from their stems, chop them up a bit, and set them aside.

Dice the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic to a fairly small consistency. You want them to be a little chunky but not a regular dice. I think of it as small dice.  Alternately, you can chop them up with a food processor. 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, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 - 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, destem and chop your mushrooms into small chunks. 

Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Chop the now softened porcini mushrooms to small chunks.

Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh diced mushrooms, and tomato paste to the pot and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

While the mushrooms are cooking away, boil a pot of water for the pasta.  Cook the pasta 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.

Once the liquid in the vegetable mixture has reduced by half and is looking and s melling extra delicious, add the mascarpone cheese and stir until the cheese is incorporated.  This adds a really amazing creaminess that makes this sauce feel so decadent!

If the sauce seems to thick, add a bit of the pasta liquid to thin it out a bit. I did not do this, as I like a thicker sauce.

Toss the pasta with the sauce, top with parmesan and serve!


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