In our family, we eat mainly fruit, vegetables, pulses and whole grains. But, from time to time, we also eat cheese from dairy. As you may know, cheese contains a fair amount of sodium and saturated fat and can raise your cholesterol level (the bad, LDL kind). However, cheese also contains a lot of benefits such as calcium, protein, zinc, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamins B-12, A and K-2. When consumed in moderation, there is no reason why cheese cannot be part of a healthy diet.
In this Bolognese pasta recipe, there’s three cups of shredded cheese. That might seem like a lot; however, when you look closer at the ingredients below, there’s no ground beef, pork or turkey. Instead, there’s hydrated soya, also known as Textured Vegetable Protein or TVP.
If you like your Bolognese sauce with meat, this meatless sauce is worth trying. The soya absorbs the flavour of the spices, herbs and vegetables. It’s low in fat, high in fibre and protein and it has a meaty texture (without the meat!). It counterbalances the fat content found in the cheese.
For the cheese, I used Mozzarella. Compared to other types of cheese, Mozzarella (particularly the fat-skimmed type) is on the low end of the scale for saturated fat and cholesterol.
This recipe is easy to make and can also be made entirely plant-based or vegan. Should you want to make this dish the vegan way, make sure to choose a good-quality vegan Mozzarella cheese that is minimally processed.
Beefless Bolognese au Gratin
Serves 8 to 10
- Olive oil
- 3 cups hydrated TPV * (see note to hydrate)
- 3-4 celery sticks with leaves, chopped fine
- 2 medium-size onions, chopped fine
- 2-4 garlic buds, pressed
- 1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine
- A dash of tamari or soya sauce (reduced sodium kind)
- 1 teaspoon powdered paprika
- 3 cups (one 700 grams bottle) pure tomato purée
- 3 cups vegetable broth (homemade, store-bought or veggie cubes+ water)
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese -or- nutritional yeast
- A few shakes of dry Italian herbs
- Ground pepper, to taste (I omitted the salt, but can add according to taste)
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Dry pepper flakes or steak spice (option to sprinkle on top)
- 500 grams of pasta such as penne or fusilli (preferably whole grain or quinoa for a healthier choice)
* To hydrate, put 2 cups of dry TPV in a bowl and add 1 cup boiled water. Fluff with fork. This will make 3 cups of hydrated TPV. Proceed with recipe.
Oven: 200°C / 390°F (standard oven)
Grease with olive oil a gratin baking dish (approx. 8 X 12 inches / 20 X 30 cm in size)
Hydrate the TPV as above and set aside.
In a big saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the celery, onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes until soft.
Add the hydrated TVP, parsley, tamari or soya sauce and paprika. Sauté everything for 5 more minutes.
Add the tomato purée, vegetable broth, grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, Italian dry herbs and pepper.
Bring sauce to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
Take off heat and allow the sauce to settle.
In a big pot of boiling water, partially cook the pasta for two-thirds the recommended time indicated on package.
Drain, rinse and transfer pasta into the gratin dish. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pasta and gently mix.
To the pasta, add about 3 cups of sauce and some (about one third) of the shredded mozzarella. Gently fold and mix this into the pasta until it is imbedded with sauce and cheese.
Spread the pasta mixture somewhat evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the top with remaining shredded mozzarella.
Loosely cover the dish with a foil (making sure that the foil doesn’t touch the cheese) and bake on middle rack in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. You can raise the rack higher for the last 5 minutes to brown the top.
Take out and sprinkle top with dried pepper flakes or steak spice or another spice that you prefer.
Serve with some extra sauce on the side to pour over each individual portion, if need be. Tastes great with a rucola or green salad.
Refrigerate leftovers. Reheats well the next day.