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Mushroom Bolognese


Lots of us are trying to eat less meat but we still want to enjoy some of our favorite dishes, like a great bolognese sauce.  This recipe lets you do that and satisfy any vegetarian friends. The meaty mushrooms are a great substitute for meat and this recipe uses all the usual ingredients of a great meat sauce - wine, broth and lots of aromatic vegetables.

Mushroom Bolognese

If you don't want to use the porcini mushrooms, you can leave them out.  They just add another nice layer of flavor.  The sugar in the recipe is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes - when I make a regular bolognese sauce with meat, the fat in the meat helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes.  In this recipe, I feel you need the sugar to do that.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium sized celery ribs, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • about 1 pound of mushrooms (I used a mix of mostly baby bellas and some shiitake), chopped
  • 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1-1/2 cups beef (or vegetable, if you want this to be vegetarian) broth
  • 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce or puree
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme



Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of very warm water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and keep the liquid.  Do not use a metal mesh strainer for this step - it is not fine enough.  Chop the mushrooms.  

Saute the onion, carrot and celery in a large pot in the olive oil with a big pinch of kosher or sea salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Let the vegetables cook for about 8 minutes, on low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Increase heat and add the wine.  Cook for 5 minutes, making sure the wine is simmering. Add the mushrooms.

Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved porcini mushroom liquid. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the sauce has reduced down and a lot of the liquid has cooked off - cook until you like the thickness of the sauce.  Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.

This recipe will be more than enough to coat a pound of pasta.  If you don't use all the sauce, it's great the next day or you can freeze it. 

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Reader Comments (48)

This looks wonderful!

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeanna

That's my tonight's dinner right thr! Looks like it has been q while since I last visited your blog and maybe that's the reason we are not having a lot of italian food in our house! Its always a pleasure seiing what's cooking in your kitchen!

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPrerna

This looks divine! Who would miss meat in this dish??

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

This is such a great idea. I transformed a lasagna with meat sauce recipe into a mushroom sauce one, but I never, ever thought of this.

And I LOVE mushrooms.

I must be a hobbit.

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

From The Italian Dish:

Victoria: As an avid LOTR fan, I loved your comment!

January 27, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Bellisima - I will be making this tomorrow night..Thank You

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

okay, I need to get my knives sharpened! your veggies are perrrrrrrrfect! great idea and as always, your photos are delicous!

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan

Thanks for this dish- I needed inspiration today! I'll make this for dinner over spaghetti squash.

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Do you throw away the porcinis after you've soaked and strained them, or do they go in too?

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristi

From The Italian Dish:

Kristi: No, they go into the recipe. In the instructions, after you drain the liquid from the mushrooms, it says to chop them. You add the porcini mushrooms along with the rest of the mushrooms to the pot. Hope this helps!

January 28, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I like the recipe a lot - meat sauces never taste good to me because the meat loses flavor - in my opinion - and meat loses texture. I've always like pasta with a very simple sauce and the finest Parm-Reg cheese grated on top. Should a person desire meat - this recipe would be excellent with meat balls that were not cooked in the sauce. I would take a cup or two of the sauce and gently let the meatballs absorb flavor from the sauce then top the dish with the meatballs.

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVicki in GA

I absolutely love bolognese sauce, and I love that you adapted it to be vegetarian friendly. As a meat lover, it's a nice reminder that such hearty, flavorful dishes can be made without it. I will definitely try this sometime. soon. Thank you for sharing this, Elaine!

Can you explain the reason for straining the porcinis thru the finer mesh? Since you put both the liquid and the porcinis back in, I don't understand the reason. I'm making this for dinner tonight. Accidentally put in 2T of sugar instead of 2t. Hope it's still okay!

January 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

From The Italian Dish:

Gwen: The porcini mushrooms are dried. You reconstitute them by soaking them in warm liquid and then straining the mushrooms through a fine sieve to remove any fine debris. You are able to wash fresh mushrooms and remove any dirt, but that is impossible with dried mushrooms. If you take the time to strain the mushrooms through a paper filter or cheesecloth, you can remove some of the debris. Not absolutely necessary, but a nice step. Hope this helps!

January 28, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

From The Italian Dish:

Gwen: Oh, also - don't worry about the sugar - it will only make your sauce sweeter. It will be fine!

January 28, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Just wanted to tell you that I absolutely love all of your recipes.. I have made several for my family and they love them, even my 1 yr old =D ..
thanx for such beautiful pics and amazingly tasty recipes...
oh and im making this tomorrow night

January 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYANET

Fantastic pasta dish! We will be making this recipe very soon!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

I just get down right hungry everytime I come by here! We're eating less meat this will be a welcome dish in my house!

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermarie

I did a version of a mushroom bolognese once and it was great! Can't wait to try yours! :) Thanks for the recipe. I am always looking for a meetless "beefy" meal.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTwin Tables

The dried porcini are inspired! Really intensifies the sauce. This will be on my winter table. Love it all.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

I did make this for dinner (served over spaghetti squash) and my husband and I both loved it! I made a double batch, so I'll be using this to make a vegetable lasagna for a potluck next week. By the way, it freezes beautifully! Thanks for a great recipe!

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

How gorgeous is this?!?!?? Just beautiful. And I am sure absolutely delicious!

February 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

This looks devine and I can't wait to make it. One question, do you know if it freezes well? I always try to double my pasta sauce recipes because they are a life savor when I need to pull together a quick dinner!

February 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEllen S.

From The Italian Dish:

Ellen: Yes, I mentioned that at the end of the post. You certainly can freeze it! Enjoy.

February 7, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Ok, so I made a variation of this recipe just last night. I first browned 1 lb. ground lamb...removed meat from pan...then, sauteed the veggies in leftover grease. I omitted the dried mushrooms & only used about a half lb. baby bellas/shitake (because I'd added the meat). I followed the rest of the recipe exactly & put the crumbled lamb back in once everything else was added & ready to simmer away. The flavor was unbelievable -- it was delicious -- I totally impressed myself, and need to thank you so much for such a fantastic recipe to work off of. I can't wait to make this again & impress others! :)

February 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

From The Italian Dish:

Crystal: That's what I like to hear! Sounds great.

February 8, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I always drool when I see noodles like this. This just looks so good!

February 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiranda

I love you site! So many good Ideas and vegetarian options. I'm adding you to my blogroll right now. Also, I'm making parmesan crisps for my valentine. She'll love'em

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Chubby Vegetarian

Delicious! We had made it this week, and enjoyed it so much! Since we didn't have dried mushrooms we did 1 lb baby portabella and a 1/4 lb shiitake. Amazing! Great blog, thanks for the fantastic recipes.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvi

wonderful! But to make the original "bolognese sauce" want to use mushrooms or not? Bye!

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarty

Made this sauce for Good Friday dinner,my husband loved it. Thank you for a wonderful alternative to traditional meat Bolognese sauce. I made a double recipe and will be sharing the rest (now frozen) with family and friends. Buona Pasqua!

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

I can't believe I never commented on this. It looks fantastic, especially since I've not been eating pasta for a while.

May 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela@Spinachtiger

This look's wonderful ! I will make it for dinner tonight. The only problem is my husband is not into eating carbs ,so I'am looking for some light Italian meal's if you have any please let me know.
Thank you Monica

May 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermonica rossi

From The Italian Dish:

Monica: Try my Zucchini Lasagna - it has no pasta, no carbs:

May 11, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I made this and it was lovely however it was really sweet. I'm going to try it again tomorrow and leave out the sugar, is there anything else I could do to reduce the sweetness?

May 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Marie

From The Italian Dish:

Ann Marie: No, leaving out the sugar should do it but I would also check and make sure the tomato product you are using does not contain any added sugar.

May 26, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Thanks Elaine, I'm making it as we speak and have left out the sugar. I double checked the tomato product and there is no sugar in the ingredients, so fingers crossed the sauce will be ok. I'm having a vegetarian dinner party tonight and I am sure they will all love it. Thanks for a great recipe.

May 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Marie

I know it's not always that convenient but I'm gonna say it anyway, fresh thyme or oregano smells amazing. Anyone who uses these herbs regularly should think about getting a plant. I bought one or £5 and it's lasted for a long time. Surprisingly cost effective. (great photos by the way)

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeat mincer

I'm not huge on traditional bolognese. I know, for shame! But I love the idea of a veggie version. Wonderful photography.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

I just came across your blog by accident, I am so excited to try this. It looks amazing!!! Thank you! Adding you to my blogroll now.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrandi

I love this veg option for Bolognese - I skipped the stock and doubled the Porcini liquid - I was lazy but this is fantastic. Also, your roasted tomato recipe is out of this world - I make it every week too. You are very talented, and I happen to know a thing or two about a thing or two :) Paul From NYC

July 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul D

Wow! I discover this blog recently... full of delicious dish and fantastic images.
Thanks for sharing your recipes and happy to read you have Italian heart!
Giuli in Italy

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGiuli

this would be great with spaghetti squash, maybe add even some chopped eggplant

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

What kind of pasta is this?

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterzelenstar

From The Italian Dish:

Zelenstar: it's just fettuccine.

February 15, 2013 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I noticed this recipe a few years ago and am going to make this at last today. I absolutely love Bolognese but like you mentioned try to keep the meat consumption on the lower end. I'm so excited!!

January 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFromtheAthletesKitchen

I made this last night exactly per the instructions and it was fabulous!! I served it over Parmesan polenta instead of pasta and it was a nice combination. I like this mushroom bolognese even better than the meat version. Thanks for the recipe!

December 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

From The Italian Dish:

Susan: Thank you so much for sharing! I'm so glad you liked it.

December 18, 2017 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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