Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jan 27th - Vegan Bolognese with Farrette

There is nothing so comforting than heaping bowl of pasta with hearty, clingy sauce. I know that there are a couple of reasons why generally, vegan sauces don't live up to the round, mouth feel or silkiness of a carnivorous one: acidity and fear of fat. There are ways around this depending on what you're dietary goals are. The easiest way to alleviate the acidity (if it bothers you by taste or by digestion) you can add fat. Don't click away. It is the natural way to balance it off. You can do this in a really healthy way by adding additional 'good' olive oil or butter. By good olive oil, I mean extra virgin, normally, or the more floral or pungent type that you would only use for salad dressing or mayonnaise. You really shouldn't use this variety to fry in. It's a waste of the good oil and may add flavours that clash. Butter will add a nice round mouth feel that you often get when you get when you go for indian in a takeaway where they use way more gee than you're brave enough to use at home. 1 or 2 T will go a long way and will only add a few calories... good calories as that.

Another way to balance acidity or add depth would be to add carrots. I'm not a big fan of chunky carrots in a red sauce and if you're the same, you can grate them in and they'll melt away for the most part. Recently, we've been using Yves Vegetarian Ground Round. I think it's fantastic. It adds richness and texture and unlike play tofu or regular soy ground round, has flavour. Of course, D, who is a meat eater, doesn't necessarily get as excited about it. For him, it's an acceptable compromise. Though he initiates making or buying it so he must like it to some extent. I mean really, when you get real mince and it breaks down in red sauce, other than the fat, there isn't a real difference from my perspective and this is a healthier option. YOu're able to replace the animal fat which is less healthy with olive oil or butter which can be healthier. The last and the last resort is a pinch of sugar.

In addition to making it clingy by adding tomato paste and butter or olive oil you can augment this by using a textured pasta. You'll see this in the shop when you look at the pasta and it looks like ripple chips. You can use regular rigatoni, penne or spaghetti but all of these do come with slight textural variety on the surface which helps sauce cling. It's YUM! We used a whole wheat Le Farrette. It's an chunky elbow tube pasta. We bought it in an italian shop on Commercial drive. If you cook it to where you think it should be, i.e. normally softer than italians will eat, this pasta will break up. I don't mind al dente but it is hard to hit it well without getting it raw and sticking to your teeth. But do try because often if you get specialty pasta, I find, that they break up when you over cook. A few of these tubes did. Overall, I did like this variety and would buy it again.

Comforting Vegan Bolognese

1 small red onion, slightly sweet if you can find it
2 cloves garlic
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 pint button or crimini mushrooms trimmed and brushed
1 package Yves Italian Ground Round
1 large tin chopped ITALIAN (roma) tomatoes
2-3 T tomato paste
1 chopped chili (optional)
2 t dried basil
2 t dried rosemary crushed
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried tyme
(or in lieu of the above, you could use 1T italian herb mix)
OR a jar of plain chunky red sauce... I do mean plain. We use an all natural sauce that is basically gently herbed tomatoes.
Salt and Pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan

Chop the onion in half, holding the half, slice the onion in half again but hold it together. Slice so you have quarter circle slices. Quarter the mushrooms. Slice the green pepper into bit sized pieces of your shape preference :) I can get pretty rigid about how I would recommend you chop it but you don't need to know it unless you want. Ask.
Mince the garlic.

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil on med/high. Sautee the onions until soft. Add the mushrooms. Move them around so they try to brown instead of steam. You don't have to brown them but if your pan is too crowded, they'll start to steam and get a bit slimey which I don't care for. Add the green pepper. Stir for a few minutes. Add the Ground round and break up. Add the tomatoes and paste. Taste and season.

Simmer on low for 10 minutes or more. Top with a pat of butter and hold on warm if you're not going to eat right away. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week in a seal container.

Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan and truffle oil (optional)

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