How to make the perfect vegan ragu – recipe – The Guardian

January 11, 2023 by No Comments

There are many great plant-based Italian recipes – pasta alla norma, mushroom risotto, pasta e fagioli (sometimes) – but none, it must be said, packs quite the savoury punch of a classic ragù alla bolognese. If you believe vegans deserve as much pleasure in this brief and brutish life as everyone else, then attempting to reverse engineer this one for them (and for everyone else who is trying to cut down on their meat consumption) feels very much like a mission worth annoying a few purists for.

The challenge, it turned out, was less in recreating the experience without using animal products – there are plenty of umami-packed ingredients out there that fit the bill – than working out what to call it. “Vegan ragu” feels oxymoronic, given the word literally means “meat sauce”, yet “bolognese”, implying as it does the use of dairy products, is equally open to nitpicking. But let the pedants argue amongst themselves – we’ve got pasta to eat.

The “meat”

Beans and lentils: Sue Quinn’s vegan ragu (all thumbnails by Felicity Cloake).

Or, rather, the meat substitute. Traditionally, such ragus are made from minced beef, not too lean, and often in combination with cured and/or minced pork and sweet, earthy chicken livers – a combination that doesn’t immediately suggest plant-based alternatives. Ideally, whatever is used should have similar fatty, earthy, umami-rich qualities, and a similarly chewy, yet juicy texture. (Note that I have not delved into the world of vegan mince here; if you’re a fan, though, you may wish to use it here instead.)

Mushrooms, which, according to Serious Eat’s Daniel Gritzer, “are an obvious choice, thanks to their deeply savory flavor” are popular, with Gritzer and Alexa Weibel for the New York Times using chestnut, Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage shiitake in their book Flavour, and Gizzi Erskine chestnut, shiitake and portobello. Erskine and Ottolenghi/Belfrage also add dried mushrooms, the former rehydrated and finely chopped, the latter blitzed to a powder and deployed as an astonishingly umami-rich seasoning that I’m definitely stealing. With so many flavours going on in this sauce, I find the fresh mushrooms useful chiefly for their juicy bulk, so I’ll be using the ordinary chestnut variety, though my testers and I decide they’re too insubstantial to do the job alone; a second, more robust element …….



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *