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Now, I take pride in featuring vegetables as the stars in a vegetarian/vegan meal. Once in a while, however, I do use meat substitutes in traditional meat-based dishes. Perhaps it is out of sadism, as my S.S. is a hardcore meat-eater (or perhaps it is masochism, because, well, so am I). But every so often, I enjoy experimenting with different non-meat meats to see if they are actually tolerable (take this recipe for vegan chili, which is actually very good). This recipe for meatless “bolognese” is, suprisingly, delicious, hearty, and satisfying.

What’s the Man-O-Meter on this one? 7. I’ll take it.

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, fine dice
3 medium carrots, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
3 stalks celery, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz ground beef alternative (made from soy, wheat protein, or both)
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 5.5-oz can vegetable juice (or tomato sauce; I happened to have v8 on hand, one of the more random donations that my mother sent me home with the last time I visited)
1/2 tsp chili flakes, or more or less to taste
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and epper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic and meatless ground beef and cook for another minute.
3. Add tomatoes, vegetable juice, chili flakes, vinegar, sugar, and water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook to desired consistency, about 30-40 minutes.
4. Adjust seasoning and serve over pasta.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

photo 2