We currently have a visitor for whom I truly like to cook: My mother in law. She is very appreciative of my efforts in the kitchen and seems very happy to try out something new. With this in mind, I sat around yesterday morning, looking for inspiration. We've had several dishes containing meat in the last few days and I, personally, get tired of a diet that is heavy in meat. In fact, there are many times where I find a vegetarian dish preferable.
My wife really, really loves Ragú – those tasty Spaghetti with a meat sauce that many people call “Bolognese.” Traditionally, Ragú contains meat – and you can readily find some recipes for Bolognese on this site. There are a few vegetarian versions out there – some of which try to substitute tofu crumbles (or the like) in order to get the sauce to be similar to the real thing. Now, doing so can be fine – I've had very good results using tofu crumbles in Chili, for example. More often than not, I am not really a friend of trying to emulate some other dish – after all, why not simply make the dish you are trying to approximate?
So, not wanting a meat dish, I set out to create a vegetarian sauce that resembles Ragú without trying to copy it. I wanted a sauce that can stand on its own, not one that is a watered-down version of something else.
I think I succeeded – but you be the judge!
If Spaghetti with tomato sauce work for your picky eater with a tremendous preference for beige food, then this might work, too. It's infinitely more loaded with healthy veggies - so you can feel good about serving this dish not just to your child, but to everybody in your household - but the flavors are fairly mild and thus, should be quite palatable to even the most finicky little person.
1 lb. Bucatini or Spaghetti (I LOVE Bucatini with this dish).
3 Tbs. Olive Oil.
16 oz. mushrooms (I used white button mushrooms), cleaned and chopped.
1 large Onion, finely chopped.
3 cloves of Garlic, minced.
2 Carrots, peeled and finely diced.
2 stalks of Celery, finely diced.
5 Tbs. Sun-dried Tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped.
½ cup Red Wine.
1 ½ lbs. ripe Tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped.
½ cup Vegetable Stock.
2 Bay Leaves.
1 tsp. Hungarian Paprika – half-sharp (not the generic stuff from the grocery store!).
2 large sprigs fresh Rosemary.
Freshly ground Pepper.
A pinch of Sugar.
Parmigiano-Reggiano – as little or as much as you like.
Let's get started:
Put a large pot or dutch oven on high heat.
Add the olive oil and give it a minute to heat up.
Add the onion.
Add the garlic.
Add the carrots.
Add the celery.
Add the mushrooms.
Stir and let saute for about 5 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Add the red wine and let simmer for 30 seconds.
Add the sun-dried tomatoes.
Add the fresh tomatoes.
Add the vegetable stock.
Add the bay leaves.
Add the half-sharp Paprika.
Add the rosemary sprigs.
Add ½ tsp. of salt.
Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 30 minutes while you stir occasionally.
After about 15 minutes of simmering, heat a large pot of water to a boil so that you can cook the pasta.
Add salt to your liking
Add the pasta.
Cook until al dente (or to your liking).
Drain the pasta and add a tsp. of olive oil, swirl it around so that the pasta doesn't get sticky.
By now, your sauce should be ready.
Adjust seasoning to your liking by adding salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.
Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well.
Serve immediately – and sprinkle some fresh Parmigiano on top!