This week we are tackling the age-old mission of 'getting veg into your child'. Anyone else have that problem? I think what I find most frustrating about it is both my wife and I eat pretty much everything and love eating out and trying new food things. Our daughter - the COMPLETE opposite. So, when I decided to trick her meat-eating mind to thinking she was getting bolognese (the meat kind) this vegetable bolognese version needed to both look and taste the part!
Granted, you miss the meat a bit in it but to be honest I personally think it tastes bloody delicious and she has no trouble wolfing it down so I must have done something right!
WHAT IS BOLOGNESE
Bolognese is a dish that originated in Bologna in, Italy. It is made up of garlic, herbs, tomatoes, wine and minced beef. Like everything nowadays there are a million and 1 versions of bolognese (much like my vegetable one!). You can use pork mince, veal mince or, in this case, a bucket load of veggies.
WHAT DO YOU SERVE WITH BOLOGNESE?
Bolognese is traditionally served with spaghetti, but to be honest, you can serve it with whatever pasta you prefer (don't say that to an Italian!). I've used fettuccine in this dish as I like the extra bite you get from the thickness.
As this vegetable bolognese isn't the traditional kind, I've mixed it up a bit with a few extra additions. FYI - my kid doesn't get these additions. I love her, but I don't wanna make basil pesto every week!
SO, with that said I top my vegetable bolognese with a spoon of creme fraiche (I know, I know). The fat & acidity in the Creme Fraiche I find really help bind the dish. I also add a dollop of basil pesto and a good sprinkling of homemade breadcrumbs too. All these things add an extra dimension to the dish and honestly take it from an A to an A+ so I would defo give them a go. Plus it DEFO makes it look that little bit fancier too;)
WHAT VEGETABLES GO INTO VEGETABLE BOLOGNESE?
Aside from the classic base of carrot, onions & garlic, I use whole cauliflower, mushrooms, and some dried morels.
The dried morels (which I picked up from SloFoodGrp) are epic. Soak these guys in warm water for a minimum of 30 minutes (overnight if possible) and watch and taste the extra umami they bring to the dish. Use the liquid from the soaked mushrooms as stock for the sauce and chop the morels up finely. You won't be sorry one bit!
Cauliflower is/was the new hip veg. It came in the form of roasted whole, blitzed up like rice or sliced into a big wedge as a "steak". Here we blend it up in the food processor and when cooked with the rest of the veggies and the addition of wine/tomatoes it darkens in colour and almost looks like cooked minced meat. This part is important as kids these days are onto everything we do so it needs to look and taste the part.
MAKING VEGETABLE BOLOGNESE
The beauty of this vegetable bolognese dish is its simplicity. Simply follow the steps below, and in 45mins - 1 hour, you have enough to feed an army! Did I mention it freezes great? Whip this up and you will have enough to feed a family of 4 for 3 nights' dinner!
- Open and pour some wine!
- Blend all the vegetables together, so they look like mince
- Cook the vegetables in a heavy bottom pan
- Add tomato paste, stock, tinned tomatoes & wine
- Cover and simmer
It's really that easy! Check out the recipe card below for the full instructions on how to make my vegetable bolognese!
CAN I SUBSTITUTE OTHER DRIED MUSHROOMS IN VEGETABLE BOLOGNESE?
You sure can! Truthfully, I like the morel mushroom as aside from being nutty in flavour it is one of the meatier mushrooms so it ties in well to the deceptive part of the dish. Dried porcini is another cracker - nutty, a little more woody in flavour, but equally as good. Dried shiitake mushrooms also work well too.
The truth is you can use most dried mushrooms, and nowadays most grocery stores will have them in stock. Given the long shelf life on them, it's always worth having some in the pantry for making some vegetable bolognese or mushroom risotto amongst other things.
Right, we need 2 bottles of wine for this recipe. 1 to cook with and one to drink. They say that you should only cook with what you drink. I'm not gonna lie - I defo struggled to pour this delicious Zontes Footsteps Montepulciano into my vegetable bolognese. The truth is, though, it definitely helps make this veggie bolognese dish better!
The Rosso Cova from Zontes has, like all bottles, beautiful imagery on the label. Given it was a fork of pasta, it seemed the obvious choice to pair these two things together!
The wine itself screams food - yes, I enjoyed a glass on its own but with those big tannins, you need something to balance it out. There are TONS of fruit, and I get raspberries, plums & boysenberries. A little herbaceous notes in the form of thyme & oregano. My recommendation with this one is a quick hour in the decanter and enjoy with friends over a big bowl of my vegetable bolognese. It's perfect for any night of the week!
OTHER KID-FRIENDLY DISHES - AT LEAST IN THIS HOME!
These are some other recipes I cook on the regular at home that help me get veggies into the self-proclaimed PRINCESS!
Beef Cheek Ragu - her favourite dinner
Cauliflower & Broccoli Muffins - her go-to daytime snack
Chicken & Mushroom Pie - favourite chicken dish
Beef & Guinness Cottage Pie - loved by her and my wife so win-win!
Happy Cooking & Happy Eating Friends!
- 1 cauliflower
- 3 carrots
- 1 red onion
- 200 g mushrooms
- 5 g dried morels
- 250 ml warm water
- 2 tins tinned tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1" piece ginger
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 400 ml red wine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 knob butter
- Crème Fraiche optional
- 60 g basil
- 80 ml olive oil
- 15 g pinenuts
- 20 g parmesan grated
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Place dried morels into warm water and leave soak for a minimum of 30 minutes
- Chop carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, rehydrated mushrooms (but not liquid) & onion roughly and then blitz in food processor – do this in stages unless you have a GIANT processor ?
- In a heavy bottom pot, cook veg, garlic & ginger in butter & oil for 4-5 minutes until softened
- Add tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, thyme, wine, chili & mushroom stock and cook for 20 minutes with the lid on and then a further 10-15 minutes with the lid off or until Bolognese sauce has reduced to your liking
- Toast pinenuts in frying pan for a couple minutes until brown
- Add all ingredients to a mini food processor and blend
- Cook pasta according to instructions and once pasta is cooked set aside 100ml of pasta water
- Meanwhile heat Bolognese in saucepan
- Drain pasta, add pasta water & Bolognese to pot. Stir to combine
- Serve with a spoon of crème fraiche & pesto
- large heavy bottom saucepan
- measuring utensils
- wooden spoon
- food processor
- chef knives
- chopping board
- the longer you leave the morels soak in the water the more intense mushroom stock you will have – plan ahead and leave it soak overnight or that morning before you make the Bolognese
- the 100ml of pasta water contains plenty of starch so by adding this back into the pasta with the sauce helps it to coat and stick to the pasta #toptip