Vegetarian Bolognese

It’s a well-worn cliche that every man can make spaghetti Bolognese, even if it is the only thing that he can make. Sorry to shatter any illusions, but opening a jar of ragu and dumping a shrink-wrapped packet of mince into it doesn’t qualify.

A Bolognese sauce, done well, is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t take too long either, most of the time that it does take it is just sitting over a low heat, reducing and intensifying. I have a good handful of recipes for spaghetti Bolognese, for all kinds of people. The full meat version, a lovely lentil version suitable for vegans – both of which I will blog one day – and this one, made with Quorn mince which is ideal for vegetarians.

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RECIPE – Feeds 4

3 tbsp olive oil

a knob of butter

2 large onions, finely chopped

3 sticks of celery, finely chopped

3 medium carrots, finely diced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

120ml dry vermouth

4 tbsp tomato puree

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

500g Quorn mince


METHOD

In a large pan, melt the butter with the oil and saute the onions for 5 minutes or so until softened. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaves, basil, oregano and thyme and sweat under a cartouche for ten minutes until deeply aromatic and very soft.

*Tip: Sweating vegetables under a piece of parchment is known as using a cartouche. It is a way of cooking that simultaneously sweats and steams the vegetables, extracting maximum flavour in minimum time.

Cut a square of baking parchment that is slightly larger than the surface area of your pan, push it down so it sits on top of your sweating vegetables and then tuck the sides down so the vegetables are completely covered. Keep the heat low and after a few minutes check to see that nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan, then re-cover and continue to sweat them until they are as soft as you need them to be and the aroma is filling your kitchen.

Turn the the heat up and add the vermouth. Cook for a minute or so until the alcohol has burned off then add the tomato puree and stir until everything is evenly coated, now add the tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then add the Quorn mince. Bring to the boil again then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

This is one of those dishes that improves if it is left to sit and infuse for a few hours. If you do this, add the Quorn mince, bring to the boil then remove from the heat, cover the pan and set it aside. Then re-heat it when you are ready to eat.

Cook your spaghetti following the packet instructions until it is just al dente. Add it to the sauce, not the other way around, toss thoroughly.

Serve with a simple rocket or green salad and focaccia, toasted ciabatta or garlic bread.

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