Vegetable Bolognese?

I had to go to Las Vegas for work last week. I'm not a Vegas fan. I don't gamble. I'm not into "shows", a good play, yes, showgirls, no. I am not independently wealthy so shopping in the ridiculously over-priced stores isn't for me either.  Vegas is loud, crowded, expensive and smoky so being there for 6 days and 5 nights was torture for me.

The only redeeming feature of Las Vegas is the restaurants. There are some good ones there and I did get to try a few.  One was Giada.  This is Giada DeLaurentis' only restaurant. It is beautiful if not noisy, right on the strip, windows open! Once the crowd settled in the street noises went away and there was a nice mix of conversational hum and background music. The music surprised me. It wasn't Sinatra, it was a mix of contemporary music.

Honestly there was a lot on the menu that sounded delicious. Lobster Arancini with calabrian chili pomodoro and basil aioli? Pecorino Tartufo with apricot preserves? Margarita Pizzette? I was having a hard time deciding so I asked the bartender if there was a "signature" dish on the menu.  Yep, Giada's Spaghetti was the signature dish. She also mentioned the Rigatoni with vegetable bolognese.  This was also marked as a "Giada Classic" on the menu. I loved the oxymoron of a vegetable bolognese so I went with that.

It was delicious! You would swear there was some sort of meat in it, it was so hearty and earthy tasting. Those of you who know me, or have read this blog, know I hate mushrooms.  Hate them. This dish was full of mushrooms and I loved it!  Go figure!

So when I got home I grabbed my Giada cookbooks and started scouring them for this recipe. I found it in Giada's Kitchen.

Here is a link to an online version:

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

The recipe called for an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms. I don't know if I've ever purchased porcini mushrooms before. Remember I don't like mushrooms. I think if I had purchased them I would have remembered they were $6.99/ounce. That's not a typo, they were $6.99/ounce!  That's nearly $112/pound! For mushrooms! That I don't like! The recipe also called for 5 ounces of "assorted" mushrooms. I chose a mix of baby bellas and shiitakes.

To start you soak the dried porcini mushrooms in hot water. The, um, aroma of the mushrooms in the hot water was, well, gross. It smelled like the floor of a barn. And I was going to put this in something I was going to eat? Move it out of the way so I can't smell it and move on!

The "meat" of the sauce consists of an onion, red bell pepper and some garlic that are processed until they are slightly chunky. I had the advantage of having this at the restaurant so I know it was fairly small chunks.

This delightful mixture is sauteed in a little olive oil with some thyme, oregano and a little salt. I started out in my favorite Lodge Cast Iron pan.

Once the veggies have softened the stinky porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms and a little tomato paste are added and cooked a little. Then the stinky water used to re-hydrate the mushrooms is added, along with some yummy red wine. Now it was smelling amazing! I love the aroma of red wine cooking! We had opened a Seghesio Carignane earlier in the day so I used that. Never cook with wine you wouldn't drink!

Finally a little marscapone cheese is added to make the mixture nice and creamy.

Add some rigatone, some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and dinner is served!

How was it? Was it as good as at the restaurant? Well, nothing is as good as at the restaurant. At home you have to do the dishes! Was it good?  Yes! It has a great earthy flavor. It was creamy and coated the rigatoni perfectly. Some of the sauce made its way inside the noodles for a particularly amazing bite. I ate mushrooms and I liked them! I'll definitely make this again, it's good enough for company!

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