Hearty Vegetarian Fare

Back before I knew anything about anything, I never would have associated the words “hearty” and “vegetarian.” Hearty brings to mind beef stews and pork chilis and oh-so-buttery-mashed-potato-covered shepherd’s pie — stick-to-your-ribs foods for the coldest of days. And what do the vegetarians get? Cold carrots? Rice? Pasta and red sauce? If it ain’t made of animal fat, how’s it gonna stick to your ribs?

Of course, being terrified of handling meat (who, me?) forces you to branch out some once you move away from people who will handle your meat for you, and I learned very quickly that some of the best, heartiest meals are vegetarian. Particularly if you put mushrooms in them.

Vegetarian bolognese

Vegetarian bolognese

You know that quote that goes something like “I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”? It’s one of my favorites, but not because I love wine — it’s because I love the way wine makes food taste. I remember the first time I made risotto on my own; I was under 21 and couldn’t buy the white wine to make it. I soon learned that the white wine, besides the saffron, gives risotto its characteristic taste, and resolved to talk to my older coworker to see if he could score me some wine…

Now that I’m “of age,” I don’t cook with wine nearly as much as I should like, mostly because I like to drink the wine that I put in my food, and I can’t afford the money or the, uh, after effects of doing it that often. However, now that it’s getting wicked cold (yes, that is a technical Maine term), I like to warm myself up with some wine and some hearty food.

Here is one recipe featuring mushrooms and wine that will heat you from the inside out this winter season…especially with the added cayenne.

Vegetarian Bolognese

Modified only slightly from this recipe.


1/4 cup (1/4 oz) dried porcini mushrooms

dried cayenne pepper (or 1/2 tsp ground cayenne)

1 1/2 cups chopped onion (~1 medium onion)

1/2 cup chopped carrot (~1 large carrot)

1/2 cup chopped celery (~1 large stalk)

8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/4 cup warm water

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

28 oz  canned tomatoes

1 tbsp dried basil

A chunk of parmesan rind (you will have to use real parmesan — the kind you can get at Hannies just melts into the soup)

12 oz uncooked pasta (I recommend whole wheat penne, but any pasta works, including GF)


1. Saute the onion, celery, carrots, and mushrooms for 10 minutes on medium heat.

2. While the vegetables are sautéing, grind the dried porcini and cayenne pepper in a coffee or spice grinder.

3. Add the wine to the vegetables and cook until mostly evaporated.

4. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat while you cook the pasta.

5. Cook the pasta any way you please (don’t follow the package directions if you don’t want to).

6. Remove the parmesan rind from the sauce and serve with grated parmesan.

A gem from the first year I lived with Alexis.

A gem from the first year I lived with Alexis.

Other Oh-So-Delicious Hearty Vegetarian Meals:

Mushroom Bourguignon

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Three Bean Chili



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