I know. The name is cringe-worthy. I think Paul made it up and we laughed and knew how ridiculous it was, but it stuck. What can I say?
You get it though, right? This is a meatless Bologese-esque preparation, born of our efforts to cut back on factory-farmed meat a few years ago. We’ve done fairly well, I’d say. We’re lucky to be able to source organic meat pretty easily, but as it is certainly pricier, we tend to eat less anyway. We discovered these veggie protein crumbles and like them in lots of dishes that normally call for meat, especially soups, stews and sauces.
I can hear you purists screaming, THAT IS NOT BOLOGNESE! Shhhh. I know. But it’s still tasty, I promise.
1 lb Smart Ground “Original” Veggie Protein Crumbles
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp tomato paste
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 lb spaghetti or other pasta
I go at this pretty much the same way I would a meat-based sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy pan and then add the onions, garlic, carrot, some salt and the thyme leaves. Cook until the onions start to soften, being careful not to burn the garlic. Medium low heat is best.
Add the tomato paste and cook until rusty. Just a minute or two. Now, if you had some red wine–like a 1/2 cup or so– you could add it and deglaze any yummy bits from the bottom. I didn’t have any, so I skipped it.
Now add the faux meat, crumbling it up in the pan. If you’re curious, the texture of this stuff is pretty satisfying. Slightly chewier than beef, but really only slightly. I like that it announces itself rather than melting away to mush.
On top of that, the tomatoes and a cup or so of water, depending on how thick a sauce you like. I usually just fill the empty tomato can a few times and add that. Add the basil, crushed red pepper, balsamic vinegar and cinnamon–yes, cinnamon!–now, too.
At this point, taste it to adjust seasoning. Add salt, pepper, more cinnamon if you need it. If you have any basil left, add it to the individual plates. So far, this meal has been vegan to its core. But sometimes, if I have it on hand, I will add just a bit of cream to the sauce. I didn’t this night, but we did add grated cheese at the table. Sorry, vegans!
This is one of my meat-loving husband’s favorite all-veggie meals, not even because it sort of kind of resembles meat, but because it is delicious and very hearty. Good for a rainy Sunday supper, which is exactly what we had.