I am about to share two very tasty recipe for pasta that I think you should try. They are two very polarizing sauces, one is heavy while the other is light and summery. Both are equally good and completely vegetarian. I really don’t miss the meat on these sauces at all because they are that tasty!
A couple of weeks ago, I made pink tagliatelle using beet root and I made these two sauces to go with it. The vegetarian ragu was tomato based so that kind of hid the lovely pink pasta’s colour a little. If I could do it again, I’d make a creamy meat sauce instead for pink pastas but that’s for another time. Regardless, the flavour definitely makes up for the lack of visual forethought! This vegetarian ragu recipe has been perfected by me for my vegetarian husband over the years. He loves it to bits and as a non-vegetarian myself, I think it’s a pretty decent sauce. I’m tooting my own horn here but it’s really delicious *pats self on the back*
I think the secret lies in one particular spice called star anise. When onions are cooked with star anise, something magical happens in the chemical reaction neighbourhood. The reaction increases the umami flavour of the dish. The star anise flavour plays a very complementary role, you cannot tell that there’s star anise in there, you just go “MMmmm”!
The other sauce is a light and summery “sauce” that is perfect for a hot summer day. You will see why I put quotation marks on the word sauce in a bit. I had left over pink pasta and the green and white from the zucchini makes it a lovely dish to look at. And the lemon and parmesan lends a very refreshing tone to the dish, which makes it lovely to eat. Best part is it takes minutes to make. Honestly, pasta is the real fast food. Forget McDonalds and all that nonsense, fresh pasta takes 1-2 minutes to cook and and this dish takes about the same time to assemble.
So, let’s begin.
Before you start:
You will need a large pot for the ragu and a pan for the Parmesan, lemon and zucchini sauce | Remember to have a pot of boiling salt water ready to cook the pasta | You can add minced beef, lamb, pork or chicken into the ragu as well | You can grate the Parmesan with a regular vegetable peeler
Hearty Vegetarian Ragu for thick pastas like fettucine, tagliatelle, parpadelle
Feeds up to 6 people
- 2 medium carrots, diced finely (or as fine as you can muster, it really doesn’t matter)
- 1 large onions, diced finely (try to use a red onion, if not regular yellow ones work too)
- 2 stalks of celery, diced finely
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 a cauliflower, chopped finely into mince (optional but adds meatiness to the sauce)
- Optional ingredient: 1/2 a pack of Yves meatless ground round original to replace the “meat” in this ragu. I don’t use this half the time but if you can get something similar, add it into a sauce.
- 1 large can (28oz) of canned crushed tomatoes (whatever you do, use good quality canned tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes is not going to work very well here.)
- 1 star anise
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3/4 glass of decent quality dry red wine of your choice (drink the rest during the meal)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil + 2 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- In a large pot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the meatless grounds (if you’re using), onions, carrots, celery, cauliflower and garlic until the vegetables are soft and the onions are translucent. Add the bay leaves and star anise in.
- Cook for a few minutes more and then add in the red wine, crush tomatoes, salt and pepper. Let the sauce come to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for at least 45 minutes up till 2 hours. Stir occasionally so that the bottom of the pot doesn’t stick.
- After 45mins – 1 hour, the sauce would have cooked down to a rich tomato ragu. The vegetables are melded into the sauce into a lovely meaty consistency and the lovely smell of ragu should permeate your kitchen by now.
- I am about to do something quite radical at this point. Remember the 1/4 cup of olive oil in the recipe? I didn’t forget that. Heat the oil up in a sauce pan until very, very hot but not smoking. And then carefully pour the hot oil onto the pot of vegetarian ragu. It will sizzle and splash so be careful. The reason I do this is because I want to temper the sauce to enhance its flavour with the olive oil, similar to chaunk, a method frequently used in Indian cooking. Let the pot come to a simmer again with the oil in it for another 15 minutes.
- At this point, your vegetarian ragu sauce is ready for use. You can either leave the oil in or scoop the excess out. The excess oil is great for salad dressings.
Parmesan, lemon and zucchini “sauce” for days you don’t want to heat up your kitchen
makes 4 portions
1/2 cup of Parmesan shavings
1 medium sized zucchini, peeled into thin strips with a vegetable peeler
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 lemon’s juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 black olives, chopped finely (optional)
a handful of fresh herbs (I just used parsley, but you can use your favourite herb, dried herbs are ok too)
1 splash of olive oil
chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste
This is not really a sauce but a toss up of ingredients with hot pasta that melds into a sauce. And it’s really simple and does not require much cooking time so it’s perfect for hot summer days. But it does require forethought, some coordination and timing is key.
- First, toss your zucchini strips with lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Let it sit, while you wait for your pasta to cook.
- Once your pasta is cooked, keep 1/4 cup of the pasta water, drain the rest and toss the entire zucchini mixture in, garlic, lemon zest, olives and parmesan. The heat from the pasta will cook through the zucchini enough that it still retains a bit of a bite.
- Season with salt, pepper and chili flakes to your taste and toss it up. If pasta seems a bit dry, add some reserved pasta water. It’s ready to eat.