My meticulous and academically-approved approach to research – looking on Wikipedia – led me to learn that the first documented recipe for Bolognese sauce was in 1891, in an Italian cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi. Though not uncommon at that time, I think it is notable that Pellegrino Artusi had twelve siblings. If there is one thing that Bolognese is excellent for, it is serving lots of people. And not just any people. A lot of households find that it is something all ages enjoy, even the notoriously fickle and hard to please under-fives. If all you need to do is serve the dish in such a way that sauce and pasta never touch, you are still winning my friend.
With it being Veganuary and a time of comparative thrift, this week’s recipe is a simple and cost-effective take on Bolognese. We will have time for more luxurious interpretations in future posts (well, that is, assuming in post-Brexit Britain we aren’t trying to conjure “Bolognese” from turnip, cornflakes, and spit). I fully intend to rework the below recipe for camping trips as conveniently none of the ingredients require refrigeration. I like it as it is, but it would work well as a base for whatever vegetables you have in and feel like adding e.g. sliced mushrooms, red peppers, courgette. Red lentils make for a lovely alternative to the soya mince, and can simply bubble away in the sauce until they are soft. For hardier palettes, a little chilli would be welcome to make this the perfect dish for a cold, damp winter’s night.
I started with a 200g bag of dehydrated soya granules. This modest size of packet goes an impressively long way, so it is great for batch-cooking or catering a larger gathering. You don’t have to cook it all at once, so you can just hydrate what you need, and leave the rest in the cupboard for a future meal. This protein straight from the cupboard is a relevation of flexibility and convenience if you are used to the short use-by dates of mince-meat, or trying to remember to defrost your protein at the right time.
A quick note on the stock cube. The stock provides a lot of the flavour of the finished dish, so it’s worth picking a brand and taste that you definitely like. Do check that the stock is definitely vegan. Similarly, there is plenty of choice for gluten-free stocks (though you do now tend to see all the “special requirements” lumped together and a stock will be vegan, gluten-free, yeast-free, and free of something else you never dreamed belonged in a stock cube anyway). If preparing this dish for babies or very young children, either hydrate the soya without any stock, try a very low-salt brand (e.g. Kallo, Boots own-brand, or Piccolo) or sprinkle the dry soya with a salt-free dry herb mix of herbs like oregano, basil and parsley before adding the water. This will still add flavour and set things up in a broadly Mediterranean direction. Artusi may not have recognised this interpretation as worthy of the Bolognese moniker, but I am confident this recipe would easily keep 12 siblings fed and happy.
Simple Vegan Bolognese
Time: 45 minutes
100g dehydrated soya mince
1 vegan stock cube (e.g. Marigold Vegan Bouillon)
2 cloves garlic chopped or minced
400g sofrito mix (or 1 onion, 1 small carrot, and 1 small celery stick diced)
500g sieved tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
3-4 teaspoons mixed dried herbs (e.g. Bart Mediterranean blend or other combo of things like oregano, onion, basil, red bell pepper or thyme)
400g spaghetti (to make the dish gluten-free choose a rice or lentil pasta or substitute for a spiralized vegetable like courgette or squash)
- Place the dry soya into a bowl with the stock cube. Pour over boiling water until just covered. Give it a good stir and then leave for 5 minutes (or more as the other ingredients cook).
- Fry the garlic and sofrito mix in olive oil until the onions are soft and lightly starting to brown.
- If you’ve gone a bit overboard with the water on the soya and it is still swimming in stock in the bowl, drain the soya of the excess stock with a sieve before adding to the pan. If there is just a bit of stock left, skip the draining part and just empty the soya and stock into the pan. The extra bit of stock will be nice for the sauce.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and dried herbs, stir together, and then simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the sauce to cook and thicken slightly.
- Make the spaghetti while the sauce cooks and then combine sauce and pasta to serve.