A Lazy Weekend [Bucatini with Mushroom Ragu]

This past weekend was one of the first in a while Mr. GL and I had completely to ourselves. To do whatever we want, with whoever we want, at any time we wanted. I know we don’t have kids, and it’s weird to think that we don’t often have a lot of time spent like that, but it’s true. Between Mr. GL’s job + band, my full time job, cooking, photography, editing, writing and trying to look after 4 animals, there are few hours left in the days to spend canoodling on the couch. 
And so we canoodled. And we ate. And we slept in. And we did a lot of nothing.

However, the two things we did manage to do were the perfect lazy weekend activities. First we ventured into the Hintonburg neighbourhood to visit  Urban Craft, a once-monthly craft market that houses some of Ottawa’s most talented ladies and gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. As this was our first visit, we were both extremely taken aback to see the caliber of talent that comes out to sell their wares. I came home with a beautiful feather and vintage button hair piece from Flights of Fancy, a pair of delicate drop earrings made by Chelsy Anne, and a little jar of the most wonderful hand-balm from Purple Urchin to keep my over-washed mitts silky smooth through the winter. I am anxiously awaiting the next market so I can buy even more wonderful local products. 

The second thing we managed to get out of our pajamas for was a Sunday supper with Mr. GL’s band-mate, Jordan, and his lovely lady, Staci. As we all are well aware, Sunday to me means comfort food. And comfort food more often than not translates to Pasta alla Bolognese. Though I don’t know many who don’t totally flip out for a bowl of rich, meaty bolognese, I thought I should be polite and check with our guests to make sure it was something they’d enjoy. And as it turns out, Staci is a vegetarian… so it’s a darn good thing I did.

I was inspired to make a vegetarian pasta sauce that mimicked the texture and richness of a bolognese, so I did a little poking around and came across The Wednesday Chefs Mushroom Ragu. It looked as close to a meat-sauce as one could hope to get without a pound of beef, though it’s safe to assume that while delicious, it’s not bolognese. But it’s not supposed to be, so let’s be clear about that now before we go any further. I don’t want to share things under false pretenses here, friends. We don’t do that. 

The sauce was brilliant. Thick and “meaty” with a richness that really makes it feel like you’re getting a good old fashion meat sauce. I adapted the recipe slightly to add a bit of spice and a few dashes of soy that really gave it an extra kick of savoury umami flavour. If you have a vegetarian in your family that misses the comforts of pasta with meat sauce, this is as close as you’ll come to the real thing without the real thing. Even for the non vegetarians, this is an excellent alternative when you want something lighter, or if you’re just trying to cut meat out a few times a week. 

Bucatini with Mushroom Ragu
adapted from The Wednesday Chef

Though I adore Bucatini for this recipe, you are welcome to switch the pasta up to whatever you like best. 

Store-bought tapenade is fine, but try to buy one without too many ingredients. The fresher, the better. 

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped onion
1lb cremini mushrooms, chopped fine
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp black olive tapenade
1/3 cup red wine
2 tsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces bucatini
Parmesan or Peccorino 
fresh thyme or oregano, for garnish (optional)

Coat a large sauce pan over medium heat with olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and let them cook until they release their juices, 8-10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and tapenade. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the red wine and soy sauce and cook until reduced a touch, 7-8 minutes. Add the oregano and season to your liking with salt and pepper. Keep warm with the lid on while you cook your pasta to al dente according to package instructions. 

Before straining pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy cooking water. Add the strained pasta back to a large pot and add the ragu, 1/4 cup of starchy water and 1/4 grated Parmesan. Toss gently to combine. 

Serve with extra Parmesan and a pinch of fresh herbs. 


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