Up front I will tell you I am a card-carrying carnivore whose go-to meatless meal is eggplant rollatini or parmigiana. However, I am pleased to count among my friends and acquaintances a number of discriminating vegetarian palates. So, Lee and Rachel, in particular, this one's for you.
I wanted to get the cooking out of the way on Sunday morning. Growing up in an Italian American family, Sunday dinner was typically eaten at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. A good Bolognese improves with time, so I decided to make the sauce up to the point of adding the mascarpone. Preparation and cooking time was under 40 minutes. I then refrigerated the sauce right in my LeCreuset Dutch oven (really, LeCreuset should be paying me for all this free advertising, but I do so love my toys). When it was time for dinner, I placed it on the stove to reheat slowly while I boiled the water for the rigatoni.
You can find the recipe for rigatoni with vegetable Bolognese sauce on the Food Network site.
1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 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.
Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook 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 and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with Parmesan and serve.
From the appearance of the Bolognese to the earthy smell and taste, this recipe is a winner. Could it have been improved by the addition of a nice hunk of pancetta during the initial saute of vegetables? You bet! I'll never be a vegetarian, but I can certainly appreciate a winning combination of flavors and this pasta dish can stand on its own. So whether you're trying to economize--really, a small package of dried porcini and a small container of mascarpone aren't that expensive--or cut down on your meat consumption for health reasons or just venture into a different style of eating for a short visit, give this easy sauce a try. Even reheated, it's superb!