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The Best Vegetable Bolognese

This could easily be called "The Best Bolognese." I've made this for die-hard carnivores and they love it as much as (or more than) the "real" thing.

Course brunch, dinner, lunch
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Bolognese, family dinner, italian food, pasta bolognese, spaghetti bolognese, vegetable bolognese, veggie bolognese
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Calories 215 kcal

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • 3 cups Chopped Eggplant {sweated}
  • 3 cups Chopped Broccoli
  • 3 cups Chopped mushrooms {I use brown mushrooms}
  • 1 Brown or Yellow Onion, Chopped
  • 1 cup Shredded or chopped Carrots
  • 2 tbsp Chopped Garlic {about 6 medium cloves}
  • 1-2 Beef Bouillon Cube(s) {crushed - I start with 1 and usually don't add another, but if you want some extra richness, this is an easy way to get there}
  • 1.5 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Oregano {dried}
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp Thyme {dried}
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2.5 cups Red Wine {I use Pinot Noir}
  • 1.5 cups Beef Stock
  • 1 28-oz can Peeled Plum Tomatoes in their Juice {I use San Marzano tomatoes}
  • 1 tbsp White Sugar {optional: I like it, but taste your sauce after a few hours and decide for yourself if you wanna sweeten the pot}
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/4 cup Cream {heavy whipping cream}
  • Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning {to garnish, if desired}

Instructions

  1. Sweat the eggplant by slicing it into 1/4 inch-thick slices, salting one side of the slices, and placing it in a colander with a heavy bowl to keep it firmly in place, as shown. Leave it alone for 30 minutes, then rinse it and squeeze out excess moisture with a paper towel or dish towel. Chop into small chunks.

  2. Coat a heavy-bottom soup/stew pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the eggplant, broccoli, mushroom, onion, and carrot and heat until just softened. This will take 10-15 minutes. depending on your stove top and exact heat.

  3. Add the garlic and stir it in. Saute everything for about 2 minutes.

  4. Add the bouillon, salt, pepper, oregano, chili flakes, thyme and nutmeg, and stir to coat the veggies in the spices. I usually pre-measure my spices and toss them in a small ramekin or bowl before I begin cooking so that I can just dump them in the pot when it's time to use them. This saves me from having to measure everything out right when I want to add them.

  5. Bump the heat to medium-high and add the wine. It will pretty much cover the veggies, but not completely. I've attached a picture of how it should look below.

  6. Let the wine simmer until it's reduced by about half. This will take 10-15 minutes, normally closer to 15, especially if your veggies have already released a good amount of water.

  7. Add the stock, and bring to a simmer before adding the tomatoes and bay leaves. Allow this to simmer for about two minutes, and then bump the heat to a low simmer and leave it to gently simmer (some good bubbles, but nowhere near a vigorous boil) for an hour and a half, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Resist the very real temptation to taste and tweak at this point - let the sauce do its thing. The way it tastes now is NOT the way it will taste in 3 hours, so tweaking now won't do ya much good.

  8. Cover the pot and continue to simmer on low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.

  9. If for any reason you could't continue cooking the sauce, it's ready to eat at this point. Just stir in the sugar and cream and serve. It won't be as rich or have as much depth of flavor as it will if you carry on with the cooking process, but it would be perfectly fine to eat now if you needed to.

  10. Uncover and continue to simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I've shown a picture of what mine looks like about halfway through the cooking process, below. As you can see from the liquid-mark around the edge of the pot, the liquid has reduced significantly. There's still enough 'juice' to make it a sauce, but it's getting nice and thick at this point.

  11. Cover again and gently simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. About half way through, do some tasting. It's optional, but this is when I always add the sugar. You can also and another bouillon cube, if you're feelin' beefy. I don't usually, but everyone has their sauce preferences! If the sauce needs salt, add another 1/2 tsp. If at this point, your sauce is very thick, you can shut off the heat and stop the cooking process. Just leave the lid on the pot to keep the sauce warm while you prepare your noodles. If you still have some liquid you'd like to evaporate, continue to simmer the sauce. It's entirely up to you how saucy you like things.

  12. Before serving, incorporate the 1/4 cup of cream by adding it to the pot and stirring it in to combine. If you want, you can also incorporate a pad of butter for extra richness.

  13. I prepare my noodles while the sauce finishes cooking and I always finish them in the sauce itself. Simply transfer them from the pasta water to the hot sauce and stir them in. At this point, if you want things more saucy, add a few ladels of pasta water to your sauce. I usually add 1-2 ladels.

  14. Garnish your pasta with parmesan cheese, chili flakes, basil, parsley, or whatever you like! Enjoy!