Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spaghetti Not-Bolognaise

The Bolognaise or Bolognese sauce is a beef-based sauce (some variations use pork, chicken or turkey much to the displeasure of gourmands) that originates from Bologna, Italy. The sauce dates back to sometime before the 5th century. Italian chefs have dubbed the spaghetti Bolognaise to be the most abused Italian dish in history. In the first place, they say, the Bolognaise was supposed to be eaten not with spaghetti but tagliatelle. Also, the many variations to the sauce itself — the use of anything other than beef mince as well as the addition of alien ingredients like cream or butter — has made the original Bolognaise sauce a real rarity.

As a result, although my mushroom sauce was made to look like the Bolognaise, I wouldn't dare to deem it a mushroom Bolognaise. No, that would be ridiculous and unacceptable. So instead, let's just call this a mushroom sauce or, if you want some comparison to the original from which it is inspired, a mushroom not-Bolognaise sauce.

Nah, I think I prefer to call it a mushroom sauce. 

The base ingredients of this mushroom sauce are similar to the Bolognaise: finely chopped onions, celery stalk and carrots. Of course, since this is a vegetarian sauce, there is no pancetta or minced beef. Instead, I used minced mushrooms: shitake and portobello. 

Also, instead of beef stock, I used vegetable stock — homemade for the absolute fullness of flavour. 

Add to that some tomato paste.

Simple but delicious. The sauce tastes good warm but, to me, it tastes a whole lot better after it has rested for a couple of hours. So let your pasta be hot and your sauce cool. And this you must not forget: serve with a generous portion of grated fresh parmesan. 

Rich Mushroom sauce
(adapted from the Los Angeles Times)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped celery stalk
1/3 cup finely chopped carrots
1/3 cup finely chopped red onions
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup minced shitake mushrooms
1 cup minced portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper for seasoning

Head the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and cook until the onions start to caramelise, about 8 mins. Keep the heat low.

Add the mushrooms and stir together with the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the mushrooms sweat and start to get brown, about 5-7 mins.

Add the tomato paste and stir well. Cook until a thin layer of tomato begins to appear at the base of the pan, mixed with the oil. 

Add the stock, the red wine and the bay leaves and cook (low to medium heat) until the sauce thickens. Season and remove from the heat. Allow to cool. 

Serve generously on pasta with a huge portion of parmesan. No compromises there!

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