Comfort food [kuhm-fert fuud] (n.): the type of food that makes you want to cozy up under a blanket with your hunny and stuff your face while watching Netflix or sitting by a fire.
Well, that’s my definition of it, at least.
To me, comfort food is all about the experience of eating. It’s more than just taste. Its feelings. Emotions. Love.
Bolognese is one of the first dishes Alex ever made for me. I ask him to make it from time to time, and each time it’s better than the last. Every time I eat it it fills me up and then some.
Is it weird to say it makes me feel at peace? Like you finish every last little bit on your plate, sit back, and think to yourself ahhhh, that was perfect. Or, according to our friend Mike, you think I could eat this for hours.
This mushroom bolognese version is modeled off of Alex’s original recipe, which uses finely diced peppers and onions to create a rich texture. And I mean minced—get them as small as you can. The addition of mushrooms adds a hearty meatiness that will leave you wondering if you did, indeed, put meat in there after all.
Alex swears by Parmesan rinds to create this super deep, umami flavor. We can usually get them at Whole Foods; we just ask the cheese mongers for Parmesan scraps. So worth.
Tips on how to make bolognese sauce
Whether you’re making this vegetarian bolognese sauce or a meat-filled sauce, the key thing to remember is that your sauce needs lots of time on the stove to develop the best flavor.
To make this mushroom bolognese sauce, you’ll first need to let the mushrooms, peppers, and onions fully cook down. This will take a good 15 minutes, so don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to make things go faster. The veggies are the base of this incredible pasta sauce, so give them time to cook properly!
Add the fresh herbs in the last minute or so of cooking your vegetables. This will “wake up” the herbs, so to speak, and will make your kitchen smell ah-mazing. Then, add in some red wine to deglaze the pan (i.e. loosen up the flavorful bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot).
After that, you simply have to add in the rest of the ingredients and let everything simmer for 2+ hours. Yes, you read that right. 2 or more HOURS are needed to create the absolute best mushroom bolognese sauce. As the bolognese sauce simmers, it’ll thicken up and the vegetables will soften even more.
We like to serve this vegetarian bolognese over pasta, but I bet it’d taste incredible in lasagna or on top of spaghetti squash. (I can also confirm that it tastes amazing by the spoonful, just saying…).
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced, plus more for garnish (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1 cup red wine
1 quart diced tomatoes
1 pint crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
red pepper flakes, to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)
2–4 parmesan rinds (you can usually get these at your cheese counter– just ask!)
1 pound tagliatelle pasta
4–6 oz buffalo mozzarella
Heat a large dutch oven with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Add in the red peppers and red onion. Cook until peppers are soft and onions are translucent.
Add in the garlic and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to release juices and fully cook down, about 5 minutes. In the last minute of cooking, add in the oregano, sage, and basil.
Turn the heat to high and deglaze the pan with red wine. Cook down the mixture with the wine for 2-3 minutes.
Add in the diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, sugar salt, and red pepper flakes. Allow mixture to come to a boil, then turn heat to low. Plop in the parmesan rinds, cover the pot with a lid, and let simmer for 2-3 hours (the longer it goes, the more deep the flavor will be).
Cook tagliatelle al dente so it can really hold up to the thick sauce. Finish with buffalo mozzarella and a sprig of sage!