I'll Have the (Vegan) Bolognese

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

   Is there anything better than a man who knows how to cook? I think not.

   It's pretty common for one person in a household to assume the lion's share of cooking responsibilities; in our house that person is me. The familiar activities of chopping, sauteing and stirring are meditative to me. It's a no fail end of the day chill pill.

   I admittedly sometimes get into cooking ruts, as I think many of us who cook on a daily basis do, which is one of the reasons I love it so much when Steve decides to cook dinner. He goes into it with absolutely no idea what the final dish may be, searching cookbooks, websites and maybe even a few of my cooking magazines. Eventually he picks whatever looks tasty- even (perhaps especially) if he's never cooked anything like it before or it requires a trip to the grocery store. The recipe I have for you today is one such creation of his- delicious, unexpected and, perhaps best of all, prepared just for me.

   His fearless, no holds barred approach to cooking always reminds me of the rewards to be had when we venture outside of our comfort zone.

   One of the pitfalls of 'going vegan' is trying to replace familiar animal products with processed vegan alternatives. There is a vegan version for pretty much anything you can imagine- cheese, hot dogs, sour cream, ground meat. The list goes on. But just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's good for you- processed is processed. Whole foods are where it's at! This dish especially resonated with me because it doesn't rely on manufactured vegan ground 'meat' but rather a thoughtful combination of whole foods that resemble the richness and texture of a quality bolognese sauce. 

   Every component of this sauce is laden with goodies. Omega 3's from the walnuts, lycopene from the tomatoes, loads of mushroomy folate, plus loads of fiber and flavor.

   This recipe is just the thing when your brain is wrung dry and you've been on your feet for twelve hours. Step out of your pasta sauce comfort zone and maybe make it for your sweetie when they've had such a day- they'll worship you for it.

Pasta with Vegan Bolognese
Slightly adapted from Chloe's Kitchen

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup walnuts
4 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces shitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced
1 15 ounce pinto or red kidney beans, rinsed, drained and allowed to dry (or pat them dry with towels)
1/2 white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
1/2 cup non dairy milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
Chopped fresh basil, to finish

   Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to directions on package. Drain and set aside.

   Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: pulse walnuts in a food processor until a fine meal forms (but not so much that you get a paste). Add mushrooms and pulse until mushrooms are finely chopped. Add beans, flour, basil, salt and pepper and pulse just until chunky and crumbly (do not over process).

   Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add in the mushroom/bean mixture, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning with a spatula, until it is evenly browned- 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce, soy milk and brown sugar or maple syrup. Heat through and serve over the prepared pasta, garnished with the fresh basil... extra basil if you love it as much as I do.

Serves 4 to 6.

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