November 12, 2008

Vegan Ragu. Or, A Tribute To Growing up Italian.

I remember my mom telling me that olive oil didn't have any fat. Nor did eggs. She meant well...she knew those things weren't unhealthy. But what about those sausage and pepper meals, or pounds of mozzarella we'd cube for a pan of ziti?

Long gone are my neurotic high school Snackwell's fat free days, but obviously an Italian upbringing came with more than fat. White flour pasta played a central role, and antibiotic-laden dairy products like cheese was MVP of most meals. And, oh, the meat...ground beef in lasagna, chicken and veal parmigiana, italian pork sausages...I mean, who knew this wasn't the perfect fuel for our bodies?

But I think Italian-inspired cooking has a place in a healthy diet. Obviously, in much smaller quantities, I still from time to time eat any of those things I just mentioned. And on a day-to-day basis, who can argue with the simplicity of pasta and sauce for dinner? My idea was to amp up a standard plate of pasta with a hearty, thick veggie sauce instead of ground beef. And of course, replace that white flour pasta with something smarter.

Pasta with Vegan 'Meat' Ragu
1 lb. Eden whole grain Kamut Spiral pasta
Organic fresh veggies chopped into roughly 2" pieces:
1 head cauliflower
2 zucchinis
2 carrots
2 parsnips
1 eggplant
(or any veggies you like/whatever's on sale!)
5-10 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 Tbl. sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup (approx.) olive oil
1 30 oz. can Eden crushed tomatoes
1 jar olives (any kind you like)
basil, oregano (optional)
nutritional yeast (optional)
S+P to taste

In a large bowl, mix chopped vegetables with garlic, salt and olive oil. Spread evenly on baking sheets and roast at 400 degrees until tender (about 45-60 minutes, depending on the veggies).

In a saucepan, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large pot, combine canned tomatoes with cooked veggies. Bring to a low boil, then simmer, covered, until everything is soft. Add olives. Use an immersion blender to break up vegetables, but don't worry about getting it perfectly smooth. You can add water as needed to allow the blender to work through everything.

Top cooked pasta with sauce and serve. Top with nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese. Add S+P to taste.


Jenn said...

I totally eat pasta about once every other week or so. I stuff tons of veggies in my tomato sauce and top either wheat noodles or tofu shirataki noodles. It fulfills the craving!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Oh, I sooo relate to this post. Mediterranean cooking is so healthy when it's done in moderation. It's just that most Italian-American families have trouble with the moderation part. ;) And thank goodness Snackwells has died.

Michelle said...

jenn--I haven't tried shirataki noodles. Are they a pretty easy replacement for regular noodles?

susan--RIP, Snackwells.

laura said...

Eggs and peanut butter (protein) were the universally-good foods in my house. And yeah, Snackwell's was big in my high school. None of which is really relevant except to say thanks for the trip down memory lane and thanks for the inspiration to let other foods stand in for meat via recipes like this.