Going vegetarian was a pretty easy transition for me. I know lots of people that have a long list of dishes they think they could never give up, but not me. For the most part, I never really liked eating meat, and didn't think I'd miss it at all. There were a few exceptions though. Growing up in an Italian family I developed a big time attachment to pasta with Bolognese sauce, so I did have a tough time with that one.
What I eventually realized is that it wasn't so much the meat I was attached to, but rather the super thick, slightly creamy tomato sauce with the added texture of meat. Fortunately, that texture I loved so much isn't too tough to replicate, particularly when it's all buried in tomato sauce.
I've been successful at recreating the hearty texture of Bolognese sauce in vegetarian form a few times before, first with lentils, and then with tempeh. And while I loved both of those versions, I just recently discovered my absolute favorite meatless Bolognese sauce, and that would be this version, which is made with mushrooms.
The awesome thing about using mushrooms as a meat substitute in a sauce like this is that they add savory flavor in addition to texture. This sauce includes a lots of mushrooms, so you get lots of flavor. Dicing them up nice and fine gives them a meaty texture. I also seasoned the sauce up like crazy, to make sure it was just as flavorful as any meat-based version. Red wine and soy sauce give the sauce give the sauce a rich, deep flavor. The liquid smoke is optional, but it adds a surprisingly meaty flavor, so I highly recommend using it.
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms cleaned and finely chopped
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 celery ribs diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke optional but recommended
- 10 ounces dried linguine pasta or your favorite pasta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Coat the bottom of a large pot with ¼ cup of olive oil. Place the pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Cook for about 10 minutes, flipping occasionally with a spatula, until the mushrooms have reduced by about half in size and begun to release their juices. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until the veggies have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until very fragrant, about 1 minute more.
- Return the mushrooms to the pot, and stir in the wine. Bring it to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced by about half, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes, milk, soy sauce, thyme, basil, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, and liquid smoke. Bring everything back up to a simmer and allow to cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens up and the veggies are fully cooked, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions. Drain the pasta into a colander, return it to the pot, and toss it with a dash of olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Once the sauce has finished simmering, remove it from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss to mix everything up. Divide onto plates and serve.