Mushroom Bolognese with Lean Protein

Why is it a good idea to make this Mushroom Bolognese?   Because Bolognese sauce is a top contender for favorite winter dinners, especially for Sundays when there is more time to let the sauce simmer away in the late afternoon leading up to dinner.  But, its popularity in our household means that we’ve branched out ingredients-wise so as not to be eating the meat-heavy version of the sauce on a regular basis.  Of course removing meat presents the challenge of where to find not only flavor but also heartiness and protein.

That’s why I just tried this lighter version of the traditional sauce with strained Greek yogurt, which I flavored with olive oil and salt.  I do realize that claiming Bolognese sauce accompanied by Greek yogurt may be akin to exclaiming, ‘how about a dip in this beautiful lagoon, the fish don’t usually bite’ but I implore you to trust me on this.  Taste-wise, the most important quality of strained Greek yogurt is its versatility.  It’s very easy to make – instructions can be seen via the link above.  Keep in mind that making the strained yogurt will take about ten minutes, but it must be made at least 5-6 hours ahead.

I also flavored this ever so slightly with Pancetta, which was removed before the long simmering phase.  This recipe will yield 4-5 servings.

Total Time: 2 & 1/2 Hours including cleanup

Hands-On Time: 1 Hour

Special Equipment: Metal strainer or cheesecloth

Ingredients (for 4-5 Servings):

– 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

– 2 Carrots, peeled and finely diced

– 2 Celery Ribs, finely diced

– 1 Small Onion, finely diced

– Sea Salt & Black Pepper

– 4 Garlic Cloves, finely minced

– 3/4 Cup Dry Red Wine

– 1 Pound Fresh Crimini or Baby Bella Mushrooms, stemmed & medium chop

– 1 Oz (about a cup) Dried Porcini Mushrooms

– 1 & 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock

– 24 Oz Container (I like the widely available Pomi brand) Chopped Tomatoes

– 1 & 1/2 Tbsp Tomato Paste

– 3 Slices of Pancetta, with Fat Trimmed

– 1 Tsp Fresh Oregano, Finely Chopped

– 1 Tsp Fresh Thyme, Finely Chopped

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Tip: storing Pancetta in the freezer allows for very easy trimming.

Steps:

Phase One: Prep

– Gather the list of ingredients and set them within arm’s reach.

– Soak the Dried Porcini’s in 1 Cup of hot (but not boiling) water for 20 minutes

– Meanwhile, prep all the veggies.  The carrots, celery and onion will be chopped a fine dice.  The carrots and celery will be added to the recipe at the same time, so you can set those into the same bowl or container once they are diced.  The onions, garlic and mushrooms should each get their own vessel or pile.  (I always put onions in a sealable jar b/c they irritate my eyes!)

– Now, strain the rehydrated Porcini’s by placing the metal strainer or cheese cloth over the same measuring cup you used to measure the cup of water.  Set the mushroom broth aside.

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– Finely chop the rehydrated Porcini’s and set aside.

– Now you are ready for the fun part: Mise en Place and cooking the sauce!

Phase Two: Set-Up

– Mise en Place: Set all of your prepared ingredients next to your stove top or within arms reach.

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Mise en Place is not always beautifully stylized, but it is always functional, recipe-improving, time and mess saving.

Phase Three: Cook!

– Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

– Add the onion and cook over same heat until beginning to turn translucent, 5-6 minutes.

– Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes.  Turn heat to medium-low if necessary

– Add pancetta and stir gently so as not to break into small pieces, but enough to throughly incorporate into the onion and garlic.

– Add the carrots and celery, continue to cook over medium heat, another 5-6 minutes.  Take care that the pancetta does not stick to the pot.

– Add the tomato paste and gently stir to coat all of the ingredients, about 2-3 minutes

– Add the red wine and bring to a simmer and stir until some of the wine has cooked down, about 5-7 minutes.

– Remove the pancetta and discard.

– Add all of the mushrooms & mushroom broth, chopped tomatoes, wine and chicken stock.  Stir gently to throughly incorporate.

– Bring to a boil, then still once and simmer, uncovered, for 1 & 1/2 – 2 hours.

Mushroom Bolognese

– Just before removing from heat, add in the fresh herbs.

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– Finally, fix your topping.  Simply add 2 teaspoons olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt to a 1/2 cup of the strained Greek yogurt and mix throughly.

– Serve over pasta, adding the yogurt and if you like some fresh oregano.  Can’t wait to hear what you think!

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