In our kitchen we have allowed bolognese sauce to grow into a style rather than a specific recipe. The meat component in bolognese sauce is traditionally ground beef. That idea led us to evolve our own approach and grind many different ingredients when making the sauce. We grind the vegetables first and follow with the meats (or fish). As we explored variations on the theme from bacon to shrimp to pepperoni we became interested in an all vegetable variation.
As we pondered the idea we reflected on our past and remembered a maitake mushroom bolognese we made years ago, funnily enough, at The Bradley Inn. We had a precedent for vegetableized bolognese sauce. Then we began exploring heartier, meatier vegetables to build a the sauce around. We had used butternut squash as a canvas for an idea in Maximum Flavor when we created butternut squash caponata. The squash had texture and its flavor stood up to the bold caponata seasonings. It made sense for us to use the squash in our next take on bolognese sauce.
To make the butternut bolognese we ground carrots, onions, celery and peeled and seeded butternuts squash. We put them into a roasting pan with olive oil, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes. We sweat the vegetables in the oven until they began to break down. We added red and white wine and cooked it down. We added crushed canned tomatoes, soy sauce, and a dash of liquid smoke to the sauce. We cooked the butternut in the oven until the vegetables were tender and the flavors united, about 2 hours at 350°F. The butternut bolognese is decadent, slightly sweet, and savory inspiration on the original.