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Another one of those just-an-idea posts, inspired by an al fresco lunch at Pentimento on Long Island: season and sear fresh tuna; remove from pan and dice; sweat minced garlic and shallots in evoo in same pan; add baby kale (or spinach or other baby greens) and cook until just begins to wilt; add cooked pappardelle pasta, some pasta water, lemon juice, grated parmesan cheese, and more evoo; stir to emulsify and create a sauce; toss in diced tuna at the very last minute just to warm; garnish with sliced scallions and more grated parmesan.

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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.

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I am not known for taking the most artistic photographs, nor am I known to make particularly beautiful food. This post does nothing to refute these things. In fact, it supports them. But I guess that’s what I love about bolognese: the less attractive, the more enjoyable.

To make this sloppy wonder, start by gently cooking finely diced carrots, onions and celery in oil, taking care not to brown the vegetables. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Once the vegetables are soft, deglaze the pan with white wine. After most of the liquid has evaporated, add ground beef. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until most of the pink is gone. Pour in a big can of peeled, whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano, crushed by hand) and toss in herbs of your choice (I used dried oregano and fresh thyme, and wished I had a bay leaf). Simmer gently for two hours, stirring occasionally.

Click to read the trick to finishing the sauce, as well as advice on what to wear when you eat it