Slumgullion (Sausage and Cremini Mushroom Bolognese)

One of my favorite old Christmas movies is It Happened on Fifth Avenue where a bunch of former WWII soldiers enjoy the Christmas season in a mansion in New York City. In it, they reference Slumgullion, a delicious sounding beef stew so-named because it came from the slums of England at the turn of the 19thcentury. After doing some research, I learned that there is no real consensus on exactly what kinds of ingredients are to be found in this recipe, but that it was an inexpensive stew often made with meat and tomatoes. In the later 19th century, Slumgullion came to be known in this country as American goulash, or its more common moniker, Hamburger Helper. And guess what? It turns out I’ve been eating Slumgullion my whole entire life and I didn’t even know it. It’s just ground beef and noodles- the perennial favorite of my childhood weeknight suppers. I’ve changed up my family’s traditional recipe for ground beef and noodles, substituting cremini mushrooms and Italian sausage to give it even more flavor. You can easily substitute 2- 8 oz. containers of mushrooms and leave out the sausage for a vegetarian version. Alternatively, you could forget the mushrooms entirely and use 16 oz. of Italian sausage, or hot sausage, if you like a little spice. I add in some spinach towards the end of the cooking process for a little veggie-health bonus but you could easily leave it out if you’re looking for a more traditional Bolognese. What’s most important is that Slumgullion lives on today!

Slumgullion (Sausage and Cremini Mushroom Bolognese)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 oz. container cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. Italian sausage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary or oregano
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 28 oz. can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 5 oz. container spinach, optional
  • 16 oz.  box Penne Pasta
  • Parmesan Cheese, for serving


  1. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add sausage and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook 6-8 minutes. Add mushrooms and onions and cook another 6-8 minutes, or until sausage and mushrooms are fully cooked and onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add the dried rosemary or oregano, and the red wine and cook until wine has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the fire-roasted tomatoes along with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  3. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package instructions. Before draining, reserve ½ cup pasta water, in case it is needed to thin out the sauce. 
  4. Add the pasta to the mushroom and sausage-infused sauce and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, so the pasta can absorb the flavors of the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. 

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