Jackfruit and Mushroom Ragu

I am rather petulant when it comes to changing food traditions or going against established food cultures. A case in point is with the iconic pasta sauce known as ‘bolognese’. I spent time working in the Northern Italian region close to Bologna – the home of this sauce. People there are passionate about their food and food traditions…and a classic bolognese is basically a meat ragu without the added tomato so commonly included in variations seen…well, just about everywhere else.

Ok…during my 15 years of experience teaching students how to make this sauce, I softened a bit and realized even in the region of Bologna, some people add a touch of tomato to the sauce…but only a touch. They keep the core meaty, which is why creating a vegan version is much more challenging than some of the many internet variations using lentils, soy, tofu – and always way too much tomato!

I wanted to create a version that is much closer to the original bolognese…but I have elected to call it a ragu out of respect to the classic bolognese sauce, that must include meat in my grumpy opinion.

I experimented with many versions and finally landed on using the combination of shredded jacjackkfruit and chopped mushrooms – all traditionally flavored with the standard vegetables and a bit of tomato. The addition of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce work in combination to add that missing umami flavor. The end result is a very nice vegan ragu I like to use with my favorite pasta (usually just spaghetti or freshly-made tagliatelle). I also use this ragu in lasagna, moussaka and shepherd’s pie. It also freezes well…so I normally make a big batch. But one thing I refuse to do is call it a ‘bolognese’.

yield: Makes about 6-8 servings

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