From the French “ragout” (meat, fish or vegetables cut into pieces and stewed) the Italian regional cuisine developed two main types of sauce: one with minced meat known as Bolognese sauce, the other one resulting from the long (LONG, 3-4 hours) cooking of big chunks of meat in tomato sauce, as in the case of the Neapolitan ragu’.

How to turn a classic of the Italian cuisine into a vegetarian dish without affecting its amazing taste and heartiness? Simple: you need to skip the meat in favour of an abundant amount of veggies, the ones typically used in the Italian “soffritto”, and have a blender on hand. Mr Blender is of a great help in this recipe; I have no idea what I would have ended up with without blending (separately) both broccoli and carrots to get an almost powdered broccoli mixture and a granulated mix of carrots for a chunky consistency.

In many other recipes for vegetarian ragu’ you will find tofu or Seitan. Those are for the lovers of the look and texture of meat in any plate at any cost. With both these foods being an excellent source of vegetarian proteins I have no real objections against the recipes that include them, however since I’m not a fan of mock meat – or better said, of products used as mock meat – I kept my ragu’ all vegetable-based. Let’s be honest, I have never tasted a vegetarian ragu’ with Seitan so I can’t be sure that adding some to the sauce wouldn’t be highly beneficial to its taste.

However, what I can confidently tell you is that this is the recipe I will make again and again. My ragu’ ended up being rich in taste, as hearty and intense as the meaty one and, good news for the health-conscious people, free from the animal fats that make its classic version a dish not so easy to digest. Its scent – I swear – filled the space with an addictive aroma that made me child again. I wouldn’t change anything of it. Well, almost anything. I only regret I haven’t added a glass of red wine to the slowly simmering sauce.

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Veggie Ragu

Ingredients

  • 1 medium broccoli head
  • 1 to mato can
  • 1 big carrot
  • 1/2 clove garlic thinly cut
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
  • Penne pasta 125 gr per person

Instructions

  • Place onion in the bowl of a food processor; process until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Place carrots and celery in the bowl of a food processor and blend. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil and cook the thinly sliced garlic until translucent. Add broccoli and carrots, cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add onion, tomato can, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup water, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 15 minutes, adding extra if needed.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot bring water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the pan containing ragu. Toss to combine.
  • Serve warm with a sprinkle of freshly grated cheese.

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