a plate of mushroom bolognese

i stand by what i said. spring is here, any weather to the contrary is just a blip. and here’s that blip. but i can’t say i’m that upset about cold evenings. i used them as an excuse to make warming drinks like strong cocktails hot chocolate, to lie under a blanket on the couch and watch too much tv, and to make really hearty dinners. i’ve made this mushroom bolognese at least 5 times in as many weeks–and i recommend squeezing it into your menu before the temperature rises. and if you’re lucky enough to have any summer-canned tomatoes that you were saving to use over the winter, now’s the time!

antonio's family's summer tomatoes!

mine come courtesy of a sweet friend who brought them over as a thank you for dinner. his family jars tomatoes every summer and i’ve been dreaming of doing the same for the past few years. i still haven’t gotten my act together enough to pull that off, so james and i have been treating these like bottles of liquid gold, turning them around in our hands once in a while, peeking at them through the pantry door and waiting for just the right recipe or occasion to use them.

chopped mushrooms, pureed carrots, celery and onions

but even with so much tomato puree going into this sauce, it’s really all about the mushrooms. the onions, carrots, celery, spices, sugar, vinegar–they all do their part to season and balance the sauce but it’s the mushrooms that create the body and flavour.

meaty mushroom bolognese simmering

pureeing the mushrooms in batches allows some to seem to disintegrate and thicken the sauce, while others hold some texture and give the sauce so much heartiness. it really is almost meaty. and it’s entirely slurp-worthy. wear something you can afford to stain, and dig in.

mmm mushroom bolognese

mushroom bolognese

1 lb crimini mushrooms, trimmed
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dried red chili, crushed
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 c madeira wine
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1L tomato puree
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

in a food processor, pulse the onion, carrot and celery together into small pieces. add 2 tbs of oil to a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. transfer onion, carrot and celery mixture to the pot. add 1/4 tsp of salt, stir and saute for about 5 minutes.

meanwhile, add 1/3 of the mushrooms to the food processor and pulse coarsely. add another 1/3 of the mushrooms to the chopped mushrooms and pulse again. add the last 1/3 and pulse until roughly chopped. the first batch will be almost pureed and the last should be mostly large pieces.

transfer the mushrooms to the  pot and add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. stir and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the water evaporates. add the remaining tbs of oil, the garlic, chili, marjoram and thyme, and stir. cook for 3 minutes. add the tomato paste and sugar, stir and cook for 2 more minutes. add the madeira wine and red wine vinegar and stir. add the pureed tomatoes and the remaining 1/2 tsp of salt, stir and bring to a boil. reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.

to serve, ladle some sauce over cooked linguine or parpadelle and mix to coat the noodles well. serve pasta onto individual plates and add a little sauce to the top of each. drizzle with olive oil and/or shaved parmesan, if desired, and serve.

makes 6-8 servings, or 6 cups.