The kids love pasta so we tend to serve it at least once a week. We usually do what’s easiest which, for us, is to grill a bunch of veg on the BBQ and toss with olive oil, tonnes of fresh chopped herbs, and sometimes some crumbled feta. If there is leftover chicken or sausage, I serve myself and then add the meat to the dish after the fact.

I decided last night to be a little bit more adventurous and try something new so I came up with this mushroom ragù alla bolognese. There’s something about bolognese sauce that strikes a cord in the dead of winter – it’s hearty, and warming, and comforting. But all that ground beef? Mmmm, not so much. And even though the kids bugged me about my “meatless meat sauce” it got full thumbs-up and plates were licked clean. Literally.

2 tbsps olive oil

2 large onions, diced

3 carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

5  cloves garlic, minced

4 – 5 cups of mushrooms, various including portobello, cremimi, and shitake), chopped very finely

1 can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 glass red wine

2 tsps organic cane sugar

2 bay leaves

lots of fresh herbs (basil, thyme, oregano parsley) or dried if you don’t have fresh

sea salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent and soft. Add carrots and celery and sauté until cooked. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, another 2 minutes or so. Add finely chopped mushrooms (I chopped mine in a food processor to speed up the process and make sure they were chopped enough). Sauté until mushrooms have sweated and most of the moisture has cooked off.

Once veggies are nicely cooked, add glass of red wine. Let simmer for a few minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaves and herbs. Bring to a boil and then simmer over low heat for awhile. I didn’t have much time so only simmered for about 15 minutes but longer would be better as all good sauces need time to meditate, get to know themselves, and sink into deeper levels of harmony. 1 hour or more would be ideal. Along the way, add salt and pepper to taste until it’s perfect.

Serve over spaghetti or tagliatelle. You could serve it over any pasta but really it should be spaghetti or tagliatelle as is the tradition in Bologna. They take their pasta/sauce combos very seriously and I gotta say, they have a point.

I got this from my brother-in-law, Eric, the other day who works for Kindred Spirit Catering. My sister raved about it so, naturally, I asked for the recipe so I could try it out and bring it to you, my trusty readers. Eric is a total natural with food and makes some mean, unpretentious fare. I’ve written about him before as he’s the creator behind the Parsnip and Celery Root Puree (with cardamom and vanilla I might add!), and the one who roasted the unbelievable lamb last Christmas. I tried this one last night and it’s a keeper for sure. It’s healthy, it tastes good, it keeps well, it’s got a nice balance of sweet and spicy, and it lends itself well to substitutions (for example I used fresh shelling peas from Prince Edward County instead of edamame; fresh arugula instead of spinach). Cook this, enjoy, and feel like a million bucks. Thanks Eric!

1 package of soba noodles

2 cups edamame, shelled

1 cup wakame seaweed

1/2 cup green onion, diced

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 Thai basil, chopped

1 cup alfalfa sprouts

1 cup baby spinach

1 tsp red chili flakes

2 tbsps sesame seeds

Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tbsps sesame oil

3 tbsps tamari soy sauce

1 cup olive oil

1 tbsp ginger, minced

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tbsp sweet chili sauce

Cook soba noodles according to the instructions on the package. Refresh under cold water. Steam edamame beans in boiling water for 1 minute. Refresh under cold water. Soak wakame seaweed in cold water for 5 minutes until it expands and becomes soft. Drain thoroughly and squeeze out excess water. Combine with other salad ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly to mix evenly.

For the vinaigrette, place all ingredients other than the olive oil in a food processor. Turn machine on and slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the mixture. Drizzle salad with the vinaigrette and toss gently. Top with cilantro or parsley and serve.