Walnut Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti

By the time Friday rolls around, most of us are ready for the slower pace of the weekend. And if you’re like me, no matter how much I’m craving the comfort of pasta, I shy away from recipes with the word “Bolognese” in the title. I imagine mountains of chopped vegetables and hours of simmering. At least that’s what I used to think—until I came up with this recipe.

Using a food processor instead of chopping the veggies makes prep-time for Walnut Bolognese a breeze. The best traditional sauce concepts combined with contemporary vegan cookery, this hearty meatless sauce can be served over pasta in just about 35 minutes, start to finish. The secret to getting a rich sauce more quickly is doing a really good job sautéing the walnut-veggie mixture, turning up the heat, decreasing the liquid.Browned foods taste good!

So what could be better than a quick and easy Bolognese sauce? A nutritious one. And this one is definitely that! Here is one satisfying Meatless Friday meal packed with veggies and full of healthy omegas (and antioxidants) found in nuts and mushrooms. Not to mention that my whole family loves it—even my grandsons!

Long week – low-stress ending. Let’s make Bolognese!

Make 6-8 servings Budget: walnut-mushroom mix -$3.73(less than ground beef) *
Prep time: 10-12 min. Nutrition: walnuts per serving: 8.64g protein, 6% calcium, 9% iron Cooking time: 20-25 min.

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pre-sliced mushrooms
1 large onion cut into 2-inch dice
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice (or 1 heaping cup of mini pre-cut carrots)
3 ribs celery, cut into 2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp each dried thyme, garlic powder, and salt.
¼ cup olive oil, for the pan
2 cans diced tomato (they can be herbed)
1 cup hearty red wine
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable bouillon
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a food processor, pulse walnuts and mushrooms together until coarse and set aside in a bowl or on a flexible cutting mat (the texture resembles ground beef, which gives a meat-sauce mouthfeel and kids who don’t like mushrooms won’t even know they’re in the mix.). Pulse onions, carrots, celery, and garlic into a coarse paste.

In a Dutch oven or 7 qt. sauce pan, heat oil over medium. Add the walnut-mushroom mixture, pureed veggies, salt, garlic powder, thyme. Stir. Increase heat to medium-high, stirring frequently, sautéing until all the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has becomes brown, about 10 – 15 minutes. This is where the big flavors begin to develop. (Browned food tastes good!)

Puree diced canned tomatoes in food processor. Add the tomatoes, red wine, bouillon, and bay leaves to browned veggie mixture in pot. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to medium and let simmer hard for 10-15 minutes with tilted lid. Taste for seasoning (it will probably need more salt) and add as needed. You may need to a splash more water (or wine), add liquid if needed to prevent scorching, but remember you want a thick rich sauce. Stir and TASTE.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer with the lid off, (stirring occasionally) while you prepare spaghetti according to package instructions. (Always salt your pasta water.)

Serve over pasta with grated cheese.

*(You can substitute walnuts for ¾ lb. of beef when you want to make traditional Bolognese.)

Published March 31, 2017. In CatholicMoms.com Meatless Friday section.

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