Starving Student: Mushroom Bolognese

By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief 

In October, my mother came down with a serious case of pneumonia. Strangely enough, it turned out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

While she was receiving tests for her pneumonia in her lungs, a small mass showed up on her kidney. Had she never come down with pneumonia, the doctors never would have caught the small, cancerous tumor that had formed in her body.

Thankfully, the amazing doctors at Johns Hopkins removed the tumor earlier this month, and my mom can officially be declared cancer free.

It was certainly a scare for our family, but was also a wake-up call for me. My entire life I’ve dealt with weight problems, so I decided that during my mom’s surgery and recovery as a sign of solidarity and overall concern for my well-being, I would begin a quest to finally lose weight. That way, when she is 100 years old I’ll be sure that I’m still around to take care of her just as she has for me for so many years.

As part of this journey, I have decided to start a column in The Towerlight to share simple and easy recipes that can be done even in a residence hall kitchen (trust me, I lived in Scarborough for a year, it can be done).

The recipes I share will likely have a personal story to go along with them, and have all been taste tested by yours truly. They’ll also be healthier than your average dish, as I’m completely ditching an on-campus meal plan and am relying on myself to eat healthy so that I can conquer the weight I’ve put on over the years.

I hope these recipes help you become a better personal chef, eat healthier or just increase your overall self-esteem. There’s truly no better feeling in the world than starting from scratch and creating your own meal that’s good enough to share with friends and family for years to come, even though you just used the only frying pan in your cabinet.

I’m starting off this column with a recipe for Mushroom Bolognese.

Bolognese is simply pasta and red sauce. The traditional dish includes some sort of meat, most likely hamburger or sausage, but this veggie-only version is delicious and filling and won’t leave you feeling like you should have only eaten half of a serving to stay under your calorie count for the day.

I actually completely came up with this recipe on my own this winter break. My mom’s favorite meal is simply noodles and red sauce, a taste that she’s passed on to me. However, when I started dieting, I noticed how much sodium and sugar were added to store-bought tomato sauce.

This recipe will allow you to create your own sauce with none of the nasty stuff added. It’s kind of time-consuming, so it might be best to save this project for the weekend, but it’s well worth the time.

Mushroom Bolognese

  • 4 pounds of fresh tomatoes (about 8 tomatoes)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 2 tbl. crushed garlic (The kind that comes pre-crushed in a small glass jar is fine)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano (or about 2 tsp. dried oregano if you buy in the spice isle)
  • 2 sprigs parsley (2 tsp. if dried)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 carrot, chopped into bite-sized pieces (if you don’t like eating carrot, just place it into the sauce whole and remove before serving, you’ll still love the flavor it adds)
  • 1 tbl. honey
  • 1 ½ cups mushrooms, cut up into bite-sized pieces (any kind is fine, but I prefer Portobello)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 handful fresh spinach, chopped (if you don’t like eating raw spinach, you’ll never know it’s in there)
  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles (the type is totally up to you, but for my diet’s sake, I use whole-wheat pasta that has added Omega-3)


  1. Cut an “X” in the top of each tomato, and drop them into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then, drop them into an ice bath. The skin will come right off. Set the peeled tomatoes aside.
  1. In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are see-through.
  1. Add the tomatoes and the seasonings to the pot, and let simmer for about two hours. Everything will start to break down, or using a potato masher will allow you to break the tomatoes down if it’s taking too long.
  1. Add the honey, mushrooms, carrot and pepper to the sauce for the final 30 minutes
  1. If available, use a food processor or even a blender to make the sauce even smoother if need-be.
  1. Serve with cooked noodles and fresh, grated Parmesan cheese, and the spinach.

As an added bonus, if you want to make a side salad with this dish, my favorite, simple salad dressing is to simply pour EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), balsamic vinegar and a little bit of lemon juice over your salad. It’s significantly healthier than using a store-bought dressing.

This sauce can be saved for about a week. So if you’re not counting calories, it’d still be great to use with spaghetti and meatballs or with any type of meat and noodle combination.

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