From time to time, I crave a good tomato sauce so thick with ground beef that I need a knife to slice it. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I do love a thick sauce! To be blatantly honest, I miss the days of spaghetti with meat sauce. (My ex wife made the best meat sauce; every year for my birthday, I knew I could count on a big helping of her homemade pasta sauce for dinner.) Now, with the vegetarian, it would be just a waste of time and effort to simmer a batch of meat sauce all day only to eat it alone. Actually, that doesn’t seem so bad now that I think about it! But, I couldn’t do that to my john.e, no matter how badly I crave meat of any kind.
Tonight, however, I gave into the craving and for the first time, tried my hand at a vegetarian meat sauce, or Bolognese, as my Italian friends would say. My version of Bolognese might be quite different from the version you’re used to for two very distinct reasons. First, my version is vegetarian, of course, and secondly, my version has some very non-traditional Bolognese ingredients (vegetarian or not).
Bolognese originated in Bologna, Italy, and is traditionally made using ground meat of some form, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and wine. Traditional Bolognese is simmered for hours before being deemed ready to eat. I didn’t have hours as this was an after work dinner. Some recipes use bacon or pancetta as well to get that smoky flavour, but again, my version needed to be vegetarian. I followed tradition as closely as I could, but in typical fashion, I had to do things my way.
This is one recipe you’ll want to keep forever! And the extra sauce can be frozen and easily reheated. (If you have any left!)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
- 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 3 cups vegetarian beef crumbles
- 1/2 cup jarred sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups canned whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, more or less depending on your preference
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
- Start by heating a large skillet on medium-high heat and sautéing the onions and garlic in the olive oil
- While those are cooking, finely chopped the carrots, celery, and peppers in a food processor
- Add the chopped vegetables to the onions and garlic and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring often so not to burn
- Next, add the packages of TVP and continue to cook for another five minutes.
- Using your food processor once again, pulse the sun dried tomatoes until they become the consistency of pesto. Add to the skillet.
- Add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, oregano, basil, chilli flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Cook on medium-high for five minutes stirring constantly.
- Reduce heat to a mild simmer and place a lid on the skillet. Leave the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to check every ten minutes, stir, and check for moisture.
- If you find the sauce has gotten too dry - and remember, this is a thick sauce! - you can add a little water. Not too much! Stir and place the lid back on the pan and continue simmering.
- At the 30 minute mark, remove the lid and stir. At this point, start cooking the pasta.
- Now that your pasta is almost cooked, add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Stir to incorporate and allow sauce to continue simmering until the pasta is ready.
- Serve this meaty, thick sauce piled high and topped with fresh grated Parmesan.