This recipe shouldn’t make any sense, but it does. It’s Bolognese, but it’s vegetarian. Oh, and there’s miso. And a loooot of vegetables. But the resulting sauce is so umami-laden that you won’t miss the meat, I promise. (Even Nishan, who counts a traditional spaghetti Bolognese among his favorite foods of all time, couldn’t get enough of this.)
Adapted from a Food & Wine recipe, I’ve played around with the vegetable proportions to my preference. Feel free to do the same.
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small eggplant (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pound cremini mushrooms, 1/4 sliced, the rest cut into 1/4-inch dice
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons white miso
One 2-inch chunk of Parmesan cheese, plus grated cheese for serving
One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1 thyme sprig
1/2 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces spaghetti
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1. In a small bowl, cover the porcini with 1 cup of boiling water; soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Finely chop the porcini. Pour off and reserve 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.
2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the eggplant and 2 tablespoons of the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 minutes. Stir in the cremini, shiitake, chopped porcini and the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and miso and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chunk of cheese, the tomatoes and their juices, the thyme, sugar and reserved mushroom soaking liquid and bring to a simmer.
3. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 1 hour. Discard the thyme sprig; season the sauce with salt and pepper.
4. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
5. Add the pasta, pasta water, and parsley to the sauce; toss to coat. Serve topped with grated cheese.