Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vegetarian ragù

Big changes at work these days again, not good ones for a lot of people involved.
Among the many bad areas to work in, the finance sector is still one of the worst these days. In a time of change and worry, it is reassuring that the level of conversation by the coffee machine is still incredibly low. We need these certainties in our jobs at a time like this.
Here are a few snippets of everyday convesations (thank me for editing soccer talk and dirty comments):
"You know those days when you just feel uncomfortable about how you are dressed, like your clothes are not matching, or your pants feel too short or you have a spot on your shirt that you didn't notice was there? That is how I feel this morning."
"Yeah, I have those days. And have you noticed how they usually coincide with bad hair days?".
"You do really good imitations, but your dance moves suck".
"Did you see xyz (boss) in the formal photo?"
"Yeah, the whole team looks good except for her".
"Well, what do you expect? I mean, she's turning 50".
"I won't be handing in that report on the 10th of May, because they will be letting me go before then..."
"Oh come on! Enough already! Dude, that is all you ever talk about!"
"I know, I realize I'm going out of my mind".
"No, you have always been out of your mind. Now you are going insane".
New father: "Little boys are much more energetic and physical than girls, right? My kid never stops moving."
"Yeah, they are pretty physical. How old is he? Three?"
"No, four months".


But on to food now, another one of those certainties in life we are so lucky to have.
We have been acquainted long enough for you to know I have no qualms about eating meat (or pretty much any ingredient) in most forms. I try to not to eat meat daily and try to limit my intake of red meat for health reasons. I also try to consume meat responsibly and ethically, as in I am a nose-to-tail kinda gal.
Although I (often unintentionally) make a lot of vegetarian recipes for our week-night meals, I have recently come to realize that when I am planning a menu for a dinner party, it usually involves meat/fish in one form or another.

As a result, I am trying to come up with more recipes catered towards my vegetarian friends, meat/fish free recipes with a little more effort put into them than the 10-minute vegetarian dishes I make on any given day of the week for my family.
I first saw this recipe years ago, way before Pinterest, on a vegetarian blog and filed it away in the deep recesses of my brain, where it got lost of course. After a google search I came up with a variety of similar recipes and borrowed a little from each to make my own version. I have made it twice in the past month for two different vegetarian girlfriends (hooray for large batches and freezers!) and both gave me a thumbs up.

The lentils and mushrooms give it the hearty richness and texture of a meat based sauce and although I still personally prefer a meat ragù, this sauce was a worthy meat sauce substitute and a tasty sauce in its own right.

As you may already know, Nuts about Food has moved to a new Facebook page (same name - see side bar), so if you befriended or liked me in the past, come on over to my new place and hit the "Like" button.

I have also set up a spam filter in my comments section because the problem was getting way too out of control to take care of manually. It'll just take a handful of extra seconds to comment, so keep 'em coming. I read and enjoy each and every comment you leave. Unless you are trying to sell me a used car or real estate in broken English.

Ingredients (about 4 servings for a main course)
2 large carrots
3 celery stems
2 medium onions
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
about 1-1 1/2 cups precooked lentils or 1 can drained lentils
about 1 1/2 cups finely minced mushrooms (crimini or champignons)
1 small can of chopped tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
1-2 bay leafs
olive oil

Make this sauce as you would make a traditional ragù. Start by finely chopping (or processing) the carrots, celery and onions to make a soffritto. If you are using garlic, do the same. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan or pot with a fitting lid. When they turn soft and the onions are translucent, add the minced mushrooms. Cook until the excess liquid has evaporated. Add the pre-cooked lentils and cook for a few more minutes before adding the chopped tomatoes and the bay leaf. Adjust for salt and pepper, cover and simmer on low heat for up to an hour. Serve over pasta with a hefty dusting of Parmesan cheese, fresh pepper and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

1. Starting the soffritto; 2. chopped mushrooms; 3. now add the mushrooms; 4. mushrooms and lentils; 5. chopped tomatoes


  1. Your ragu looks heavenly! And I wouldn't miss the meat here at all with such a lovely sauce. Good luck with the work changes. Hubby got some changes that he wasn't happy with yesterday too!

  2. I adore lentils and although meat ragu is a little loaf family staple, sometimes vegetarian food is what we crave. Lovely little recipe and heading over to check out your new FB page now!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have a vegetarian in my house full of carnivors and it's hard to find something that will satisfy everyone. I think this is it!

    1. As I mentioned above, it is impossible to beat a meat ragù for a meat lover in my opinion, but if you take as a sauce in its own right it is quite delicious.

  4. neat! enjoy being privy to these private conversations..also like the ragu here, and these giant pasta shapes. .my mom would always make crepes and call them cannelloni, dont know why or if this was the traditional way.

    1. Crepes "cannelloni-style" are called crespelle here. They are cooked with bechamel sauce.

  5. Interesting idea! I love lentils and just bought some this week, so perfect timing! Will have to try this as our first course for Sunday dinner...

  6. E' un sacco di tempo che vorrei fare un ragù di funghi e lenticchie, uso sempre le lenticchie per fare le mie polpette veggie e sostituiscono benissimo la carne! :)


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