Mushroom Bolognese Sauce

Last week the munchkin and I were driving through town. I pointed out a stop light and told him, “Look, a red stop light. That means STOP.” Then I explained that a green light meant “GO”. I told him to let me know when the light changed to green, so that we could go! He thought that was pretty cool, and I felt like I got a few mom points. But then, 5 or 10 minutes later, I made a right turn, on a red light. I was so surprised when he shouted, “Mom, red! Stop!” Mom points? I think not! That was totally his own genius! This kid is continually surprising me with how smart he is! Just this morning we were counting together. We counted to 10, which Limi and I had taught him to do, but then he continued up to 15 on his own! I know he is a really smart kid, but he always proves that he is smarter than I think! 

So what exactly is Bolognese Sauce? According to my understanding, it is the original “spaghetti” sauce. It was created in the late 1700’s in Bologna, Italy. Of course, it is a meat-filled tomato sauce, with onion, carrot, and wine, then simmered to rich perfection. It is served with Tagliatelle, or any other flat pasta. Of course, here in America, our red pasta sauce (“spaghetti sauce”) or marinara sauce is not nearly as rich and it is served with spaghetti noodles. As you can see, I made the faux pas of serving my Bolognese Sauce with spaghetti noodles, because I did my historical research after making this yummy sauce.

Seriously though, jarred spaghetti sauce, or even homemade spaghetti sauces do not even shake a stick at this Bolognese Sauce! It is rich and flavorful while still being light and fresh! The sauce uses cremini mushrooms, carrots, onions, tomatoes, ground beef, cream, grape juice or wine, and a few spices. I opted to use the grape juice, which gave the sauce a slightly sweet and essential touch. I am sure wine probably does the same thing for the sauce. It may seem a bit strange, to incorporate the “grape flavor” in your tomato sauce, but it is phenomenal! If you have never tried Bolognese before, this recipe is a MUST TRY!

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1/2 lb ground beef

8 oz cremini mushrooms, trimmed and finely chopped*

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped*

1/2 cup purple onion, finely chopped*

3 TBS butter

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sugar

2 TBS tomato paste

1 cup purple grape juice

1 (15.5 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed in a blender

1/2 cup low sodium beef broth

1 TBS low sodium soy sauce

1/4 tsp black pepper

salt to taste

3 TBS heavy cream

1 pound pasta, your choice


Brown the beef in a skillet, and drain any remaining oil. Set aside.Heat the butter in a stew pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots and onion to the pot. Cover and cook until the vegetables release their liquid (about 5 minutes). Then uncover the pot and increase the heat to medium-high. Saute the vegetables until the liquid evaporates and the vegetables are soft (about 12-15 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and sugar and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, mix to incorporate and saute for 1 minute. Put the ground beef into the vegetables and pour the grape juice over the mixture. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, .

Stir the pureed tomatoes, beef broth, soy sauce, salt and pepper into the meat and vegetable mixture. Let the sauce simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Cover if necessary to avoid splatters and burns. Once your sauce has reached your desired thickness, remove from heat, and add the cream.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Serve the Bolognese sauce over the pasta, and top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

*You could use a food processor, or blender and some skill, to chop these vegetables.

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats.

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