Mushroom Bolognese

For this mushroom bolognese that’s both vegetarian and healthy, slowly cooked mushrooms provide flavor—including umami—you won’t even miss the meat. Everyday and inexpensive button mushrooms work perfectly well.

Three bowls filled with spaghetti and mushroom bolognese, next to a large pot of mushroom bolognese, and a small dish of Parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti bolognese is a staple in so many homes, and our own children were raised on it. And while we’re not condemning spag bol, we’ve both cut back on the amount of times it appears on the table. This recipe looks like a meaty stew, but definitely tastes like mushrooms.–Alex Elliott-Howery & Jaimee Edwards

How Do I Give My Bolognese a Richer Flavor?

Without using meat, it can be difficult to get a deep, rich, and umami-packed flavor. The secret to this recipe is adding the ingredients one stage at a time. This builds up a more complex flavor, creating a true ragu rather than just a dish of stewed mushrooms.

Mushroom Bolognese

Three bowls filled with spaghetti and mushroom bolognese, next to a large pot of mushroom bolognese, and a small dish of Parmesan cheese.
For this mushroom bolognese that’s both vegetarian and healthy, slowly cooked mushrooms provide flavor—including umami—you won’t even miss the meat. Everyday and inexpensive button mushrooms work perfectly well.

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr
Total 1 hr 30 mins
Mains
American
6 servings
216 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients 

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium (14 oz) onions finely chopped
  • 2 medium (6 oz) celery stalks or leeks finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme or oregano
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon miso preferably white
  • 3 teaspoons all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 2 pounds 4 ounces button mushrooms grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade beef chicken, or vegetable broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions
 

  • In a large skillet over medium–low heat, warm the oil and sauté the onions and celery stalks, or leeks, with a good pinch of salt until very soft and sweet, 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the garlic cloves, smoked paprika, black pepper, and dried thyme or oregano, and sauté until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the red wine and miso, then simmer for a few more minutes.
  • Gradually add 3 teaspoons flour, a teaspoon at a time, stirring constantly to make a thickened gravy-like sauce.
  • Add the mushrooms, a large handful at a time, allowing each handful to cook down into the sauce for 5 to 7 minutes before adding more. Once all the mushrooms are in, add the tomato paste, broth, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer over low heat until thickened and the flavors are blended, 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Taste, adjust the seasoning where needed, and add more stock if you feel like the mixture is too thick.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 216kcal (11%)Carbohydrates: 14g (5%)Protein: 7g (14%)Fat: 13g (20%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gSodium: 346mg (15%)Potassium: 732mg (21%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 448IU (9%)Vitamin C: 9mg (11%)Calcium: 41mg (4%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

As a big fan of Bolognese, I was very skeptical of a mushroom version, but I must admit it very much won me over! And I didn’t have to take a nap after eating it, so that’s a plus.

My only warning is that while this dish is tasty, it’s not real pretty! But you get over that after the first bite, and besides, it’s nothing a little artful sprinkling of Parmesan can’t cure.

This Bolognese has lots of flavor depth and a chewy texture. I wanted to create an intense flavorful sauce by cooking each ingredient slowly over low heat to bring out the flavor of the ingredient. Look at it as building a masterpiece by adding a layer of flavor with each ingredient.

A couple more cloves of garlic would have added to the flavor of the sauce. I used a red wine blend and white miso. I used a food processor to finely chop 37 oz. of mushrooms before starting the cooking process. Adding a handful of mushrooms to the thickened sauce and cooking for 3 to 5 minutes before adding another large handful allowed the mushrooms to impart flavor and cook slightly before adding more mushrooms.

The consistency of the ragu was perfect using 1 cup of chicken broth and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I simmered the ragu on low for 30 minutes. The flavor was perfect without additional seasonings. Don’t let the bland brown color of the ragu fool you. If you are looking for a quick ragu sauce recipe, this is not the one to make.

As always, the final product and the taste of a dish is the ultimate measure of success and this mushroom Bolognese was very good. As the headnote says, the secret is adding each ingredient and letting it cook before adding the next.

That worked well until the mushrooms and here is where I found the recipe lacking. Cooking two-plus pounds of grated (I used my food processor) a handful or so at a time takes a long time. And since mushrooms give off so much liquid when they are cooked, my sauce was, well… very saucy. The recipe says to allow each handful to cook down before adding more. I felt it would have been better to either do the mushrooms separately or first. I guess the point was that all that mushroom liquid would add extra flavor to the sauce? It was very mushroom-y and flavorful but there was no way I would have had to add more stock to thin it.

Nonetheless, I will make this again. I mean, three steps? So it was on the loose side for a Bolognese but again, the flavor was pretty amazing.

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