Tuesday, 24 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week - Pasta Bolognese

I really love pasta. Filled pasta with a creamy sauce, macaroni cheese, spaghetti, gnocchi, any kind of pasta with any kind of topping. One of my no-time-to-cook standbys is pasta with tomato ketchup and grated Cheddar (but don't tell anyone, it's my shameful secret).

Vegetarian bolognese with tricolore pasta

This bolognese sauce is one of the recipes that strongly reminds me of my mother, a sort of pre-emptive nostalgia. No one can cook it quite like she does, not even me, and there's no set recipe. She just throws in whatever we have to hand and cooks it until it seems done. I've been trying to learn her secret by cooking it with her, but I know that it will never be quite the same when I try it without her guidance. No matter, it is impossible for it not to be delicious.

The base ingredients are vegetarian mince and tomatoes. For the meal pictured above we used a jar of Italian tomato pasta sauce and a carton of chopped tomatoes. My favourite mince is Sainsbury's Meatfree Mince which is soya-based and takes flavour really well.

In terms of vegetables we used two large carrots, one large onion, six large mushrooms, a handful of green beans (microwaved in a little water first, as uncooked beans contain harmful toxins) and a garlic clove, all chopped.

First fry the garlic and onion in some olive oil (use a large pan, not a frying pan). Then throw in the beans and carrots and fry on a low heat until they are tender. Add the mince and fry gently for a few more minutes.

Add the sauce and stir well. There shouldn't be too much liquid at this stage - it might even look a bit dry, but don't be tempted to add water at this stage because as the vegetables cook, the bolognese will become more liquid. Add the mushrooms and season with herbs, salt, pepper, and yeast extract as preferred.

The vegemince will have cooked almost immediately, so your bolognese sauce will be ready once you're happy with the flavour. When you're about ready to serve, reassess the moisture level. If it looks too dry, add some water or vegetable stock and stir well. If it looks too liquid, uncover and simmer gently for a few minutes, stirring regularly.

Normally we have this with pasta, but it works just as well on a bed of mashed potato or rice. Sprinkle with hard grated cheese (remember Parmesan in its true form is not vegetarian) and serve while it's still hot.

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