Veggie Bolognese Pasta Bake
Some people say that January is a depressing month but I’m still buzzing from the festivities, rushing around back at work. February, though, can be really gloomy, particularly if Valentine’s Day doesn’t go according to plan! Food can be an easy way to cheer up your day and this warming, comforting dish is like a hug in a bowl.
I recently purchased the largest and fattest rigatoni I’d ever seen and I was desperately waiting for an excuse to use them so I thought this pasta bake would be ideal. My mum used to make Bolognese sauce regularly when we were kids. I think it was a classic dinner in the 1970s and 80s (we used to serve it with that dreadful dried parmesan which tastes like vomit but I secretly loved it) and I think it was possibly one of the first meals my mum taught me to cook, starting with the classic soffritto of celery, carrots and onions that represent the Italian flag. I’ve adapted it over the years and of course this one uses vegetarian mince instead of meat and quite frankly you really don’t need the meat in this dish. There’s also a healthy amount of cheese in here too but this time I’m using the proper stuff!
I’m trying to do as many ‘one-pot’ meals as I can, which helps when it comes to the washing up and makes things so easy… so for this you need a really large shallow pan with a lid.
Warm up your pan, add a generous amount of butter and olive oil and once the butter has melted, add the soffritto of onions, celery and carrots, stir and let them shimmy in the pan for a while. As they begin to soften add the mushrooms, fresh crushed garlic and the herbs and let the whole thing sauté gently for at least five minutes.
Once the veg are beginning to soften add the vegetarian mince, stir well and let it all sizzle together for at least another 5-8 min or until the veg are beginning to colour and the mince is soft.
Add the wine, tomato sauce and liquid and stir well… turn the heat down to the very lowest and let it gently plop away for at least an hour. The longer you leave it the better.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water until just al dente. Drain and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 160C
After at least an hour, stir all the cheddar and parmesan and one of the mozzarella balls into the sauce until stringy and melted, then add the pasta and stir together ensuring all the pasta holes are filled. Then top with the last mozzarella ball torn into bits on top.
Place the lid on top and pop it into the oven for 20 min with the lid on and 10 min with the lid off.
Eat and of course, enjoy!