December 13, 2019
I was slow to ‘join the bandwagon’ of plant-based protein meat-substitutes, then a purveyor gave me samples, and I thought I should give it a try. These are not your typical ‘veggie’ burgers. These are patties made with green pea protein and with a texture and mouth feel thought to imitate ground beef.
I made a couple of traditional ‘burgers’; pan-sautéed with traditional burger toppings. The texture was indeed very ‘meat-like ‘and it looked like a sautéed beef patty in the pan, but the flavor was a bit more vegetal than beefy.
And then I wondered how Beyond Meat® could be used in other ways…how about a traditional Italian Bolognese meat sauce for example? Would the tomatoes and other traditional Bolognese sauce ingredients make a satisfying sauce without the addition of pork, beef or my beloved pancetta?
Well, you be the judge.
The following is my version of a Beyond Meat® Bolognese sauce.
Without the beef. Without the pork. And without the pancetta.
And yes…… I can hear you Italian purists scoffing at me!
1 cup white or Spanish, finely chopped onions (start with a 12-ounce unpeeled onion, approximately)
2 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1-pound package Beyond Meat®
2 tablespoons tomato paste
28-ounce can tomato puree
2 each- 14-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with its liquid (I like Muir Glen organic tomato products)
½ cup red wine
1 cup light cream or half-and-half
2 cups water or chicken or beef stock (plus more as needed)
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon dried basil leaves
Lots of freshly cracked black pepper
½ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, washed & dried
Mise-en-place (the gathering and preparation of ingredients)
Peel and finely dice a white or Spanish onion to yield 1 cup. Set aside.
Peel 2 medium carrots. Grate on the large holes of a cheese grater or cut into chunks and briefly pulse in a food processor. Don’t completely puree. Set aside.
Wash and dry the celery. Cut into pieces similar in size to the onions. (I don’t recommend chopping the celery in the food processor.)
Wash and dry the cremini mushrooms. Rinse in a strainer under cold running water and shake off excess water. Remove the stems, discard them or save to add to a stock. Pat the remaining mushroom ‘caps’ dry with a paper towel and chop them in the food processor; again, pulsing the machine on-and-off a few times until they are small pieces but are not mushy. Set aside.
Finely mince 2-3 cloves of garlic to a fine paste. Measure a tablespoon of garlic and set aside.
Wash the parsley and shake dry. Wrap the parsley in a paper towel to dry (before chopping later—wet parsley does not chop well; it just sticks to the blade of the knife.)
Building the sauce
Choose your favorite Dutch oven/casserole pot for making sauce. Grab the cover as well. It should, of course, be large enough to hold all your ingredients.
Begin by putting your pan on the stove over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and add the chopped onions and celery. Add a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until a bit softened. Add the chopped carrots and stir again to combine. Cover the pan and let these vegetables ‘sweat’ together to soften and exude their juices without evaporation. This is a classic technique in building a flavor base for soups, stews and sauces.
Add the chopped mushrooms to the pot, season with a pinch of kosher salt and cover the pan to ‘sweat’ again. When softened, add the garlic and cook for 30-45 seconds.
Add the tomato paste and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir often. Add the wine and turn up the heat a bit to reduce the volume of added wine to half its original volume.
Crumble a one-pound package of Beyond Meat® into the pot with the other ingredients. Stir to combine with the other ingredients and break it up into small pieces.
Add both the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes with their juices, to the pot. Add 1 cup of water or stock, reserving the 2nd cup. Add the cup of half-and-half or light cream. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer.
Add the red pepper flakes, the oregano and basil and 3-4 twists of the pepper mill. I recommend fresh-cracked black pepper…it will add great character to the sauce. Turn the heat back down and cook the sauce at a bare simmer for 1 hour minimum to 1 ½ hours.
Stir frequently, add stock or water if needed to adjust thickness. And, above all…do not boil…rather, cook this sauce at a gentle simmer. Watch and adjust heat as necessary. Stir often to prevent sticking.
When you are satisfied with the texture and taste, chop the washed & dried parsley and add to the sauce.
Serve over your favorite pasta with grated cheese.
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