Friday, October 9, 2015

Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

There is so much delicious vegan food here in Tel Aviv, my bank account is in serious danger!  Now that the holidays are over and we're getting settled into a regular routine, we've been cooking most of our meals at home.  

Last night I had some whole wheat pasta in the pantry that I wanted to use up.  I messed around and ended up with a delicious sauce, something in between ratatouille and bolognese.  In the US, "bolognese" generally indicates tomato sauce with meat in it, but traditionally bolognese is a sauce comprised mainly of meat with tomato added as flavoring.  So this is a mish-mosh recipe, but it's totally traditional as well. ;)

It's not a fancy recipe but it turned out so well that I had to share it!  

There's no way to make this pretty, but trust me, it was delish.
Penne Ratatouille Bolognese

8 oz penne
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium eggplant, diced to 1 inch
1 red bell pepper, diced to 1 inch
1 onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetarian burger crumbles (I rehydrated plain dry TVP and it worked perfectly)
3 tablespoons dried basil, or 1/2 cup fresh
salt and pepper to taste
6-8 oz tomato paste
1/2 - 1 cup water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 tablespoon tamari (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Make sure to use a huge pot of water, salted liberally once the water comes to a rolling boil. 

Meanwhile, heat a thin layer of olive oil on medium-high in a large, deep pan.  Once the oil is very hot, add the eggplant, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5-10 minutes. Drain the eggplant on a paper towel and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more olive oil on medium.  Once the oil is hot, add in the onions and garlic.  Cook for 10 minutes until everything begins caramelizing, then add the red pepper.  Cook for another 5 minutes, then add in the TVP or crumbles and the basil.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes, adding a dash of salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato paste and work it through the crumbles to evenly coat them.  Add in about half a cup of water and see how everything looks- it should be the consistency of a sloppy joe or a chili, not a sauce.  Add more tomato paste if it is too thin, or more water if it's too thick.  Add in the toasted sesame and tamari, if using (not necessary but it gives the dish a little extra depth), and add the cooked eggplant back to the pan.  Turn heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. 

Add the drained pasta and toss to coat.  Serve with bread slathered in (vegan) butter and nutritional yeast on the side for sprinkling.

Dinner on the balcony.  I'm having a nooch bowl at every meal from now on.
Notes and Thoughts:
-Adding some zucchini would be nice for next time.
-I'm still building my spice cabinet little by little (based on what I can translate at the store), I'd pick up some red pepper flakes next time.
-If you don't do pasta this would be delicious served over roasted potatoes, or even on it's own as a stew.
-If you are TVP adverse, you could sub in cooked brown lentils instead.

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