Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quickest veggie "Bolognese" sauce

A few very busy days meant a little less cooking experimentation, so here's one of my "go-to" recipes.

Purists should be warned that this is by no means an accurate vegetarian rendition of a Bolognese ragu, because it is much simplified. It does, however, make for a very delicious and hearty meal.

This recipe uses a store-bought vegetarian "ground beef" product. In the US my favorite is Morningstar's "griller crumbles" and this is what I used for this recipe. However, you can use whatever vegetarian grounds you prefer. 

Please note: most vegetarian meat-style products are not gluten free. The ones I used in this recipe are certainly not. Many of them are also not vegan, so choose carefully. I have now made this recipe with vegan and gluten free TVP, and have reported on the results here.

Also a note about the tomatoes: I prefer using canned crushed tomatoes for this recipe, as they have a stronger tomato flavor than you usually get from fresh tomatoes, at least where I live. Crushed are better than diced or whole, because they have better texture and because often diced/whole canned tomatoes contain preservatives meant to keep their shape. If you have access to really great fresh tomatoes, you can use those - just peel and crush them before adding to the recipe.

Quickest Veggie "Bolognese" Sauce


Ingredients (for 2 very large portions, or 3-4 smaller ones): 

* 250 grams (about 0.5 lbs) pasta of your choice
* 1 pack of Morningstar griller crumbles - or any other vegetarian "ground beef" product of your choice (these products will usually list their equivalence to actual ground beef in terms of quantity. You want the equivalent of about 1 lb or 1/2 kilo of beef).
* 1-2 tsp olive oil 
* 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 large can of high quality crushed tomatoes (28 oz or 800 grams) (see note on tomatoes in the intro)
* Seasoning: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, dried oregano. 
* Fresh herbs: 1 handful each of basil and parsley, finely chopped (these are optional.
The recipe will be tasty without them, but they do add a lovely freshness that just takes it up a few notches). 
* Grated cheese (optional) 

1. Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. 
2. In a large saucepan on medium heat, heat the olive oil, and fry the minced garlic until it is just golden. Add the vegetarian grounds and keep cooking until the grounds are defrosted (if they were frozen) and a little browned.

3. Add the crushed tomatoes into the saucepan, stirring well to mix the grounds well into the tomatoes. Flavor with the seasonings, to taste.Lower the flame a little, and allow the sauce to continue cooking, stirring occasionally. 

4. While the sauce is cooking, salt the pasta water and cook the pasta as per the instructions on the box, until al dente. 

5. Strain the pasta and add it into the saucepan with the sauce. Mix well until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Just before serving, sprinkle with the fresh herbs and cheese, and cook while mixing until the cheese melts in. 


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