Ragu Alla Bolognese is a rich and creamy tomato-based sauce, typically made with a variety of meats, heavy cream, wine and beef broth.
I was surprised how easy a task it was to translate this dish to a lighter meatless version.
As with many recipes that contain meat, it is actually the supporting “cast members” — the dry white wine, nutmeg, sweet carrots, celery and red onion — that give dishes like my Bolognese sauce its distinctive and deliciously familiar flavor.
1 medium red onion
1 medium carrot
1 large stalk celery
1-12 oz. package vegetarian ground beef style crumbles
3-4 slices chopped vegetarian bacon (optional)
1 lb. fresh or canned tomatoes (look for a smooth crushed tomato)
4 T. margarine
2 T. olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 c. good quality dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/4 t. fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup “beef” flavored vegetarian stock
1/2-3/4 c. unsweetened soy milk
To make preparation easier, use a food processor and process onion, carrot, and celery until very finely chopped.
Heat the margarine and oil in a heavy pan. When the oils are just warm add the vegetables and saute for 5 minutes. Add “beef” and “bacon” and continue sauteing for another 10 minutes stirring every so often.
Add the wine and cook for 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Simmer mixture for 15 minutes before adding the nutmeg and broth. Continue cooking for about another 20 minutes.
Taste the sauce to be sure all ingredients are well blended and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, add the soy milk, and continue cooking on very low for another 10-15 minutes. Keep the heat low, so the bottom doesn’t burn.
At this point, when the sauce is done, prepare the pasta. (I don’t recommend egg-based pasta because this sauce is too robust.) When the pasta is al dente, add the pasta to the sauce and combine and cook over very low heat for a few minutes.
Top off each serving with another drizzle of fruity olive oil and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Note: With a little imagination and the inclusion of modern soy products, converting any meat-based family favorites is easier than ever. “Ground beef” style vegetable protein crumbles add consistency, texture, and nutrients, while eliminating fat and cholesterol.