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 is 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!). Here I have used curly Fettucine, my new go-to pasta. I love the length of it and the little curly bits are great for catching the sauce too.
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 a 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.
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 more 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 but in my opinion, I defo don't use what I drink to cook. Granted, if I was in a high-end restaurant I'd probably be refining my cooking a lot more but the truth is I ain't so let's focus on the drinking wine 😉
Italian red - it's gotta be Italian red right? After all, we are eating an Italian inspired dish. I had some Ca' de Lion L'Altera Barbera D'Asti DOCG 2018 (boy that's a mouthful) in the cellar and knew this would be a match made in heaven. I won't go into the ins & outs of the classifications of Italian wines - it's a minefield. However, I will tell you the DOCG part is the highest classification given to wine in Italy so when you see that you know straight off the bat you are opening something the Italians are proud of!
The wine itself needs some time in the decanter to show it's true colours. It's a beast but in a good way. Once it was decanted (for about an hour) it really started to show it's true colours. Juicy, ripe red & dark fruits with nice oak integration. Notes of chocolate, coffee, mint, and what ties this in the dish so well is the notes of forest floor I get from it too. The finish was a touch chalky but the acid helps balance it all out. It's defo a wine that improved the longer it was open which only tells me that 3-6 are what's needed so you can enjoy the evolution over the next few years!
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, celery, 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