Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese

lentil bolognese Desi often teases me (not seriously, he gets the vegan thing) about how, when we travel, I miss out on the best food.

In New Orleans, while he was enjoying the seafood this city is so famous for, I was scouring menu cards– often fruitlessly– for beans and rice made without meat stock. He won’t let me forget the day we traipsed a mile or more to get to a Greek restaurant where I could finally order some hummus and felafel and the usual vegan suspects.  As I devoured the tasty (albeit not adventurous) food, I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days.

When we go to India, it is he that my parents love to feed more because he will eat all that fresh fish they tend to gorge on in coastal Goa. When we traveled through Mexico, a food-lover’s paradise, I often had to make do with sides (delicious ones) or scour my Happy Cow list for veg-friendly restaurants and then get a bus or a train to get there.

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Lentil BologneseEating vegan when you travel is not always difficult, as my prelude might have made it seem, because more restaurants are vegan-friendly these days. But truth is, it’s not always easy either, especially for someone who loves delicious food as much as I do and hates the idea of salads for most meals.  I do remember a time I did do that — it was when we took a road trip through the south a few years back. The trip was wonderful but while Desi was out sampling all kinds of dishes that the south is famous for, I was picking at raw leafies and wondering if I’d ever see a decent meal again.

Of course, being vegan and eating out also makes for some great memories. Like the time we were in Lisbon, exploring the port neighborhood of Alfama. The winding, narrow streets are dotted with taverns where you can listen to Fado, the melancholic but sweet music that springs from Lisbon’s belly, and we came across a particularly beautiful one outfitted with what looked like wood parts of a massive, ancient ship.  As we stood outside, scouring their menu to see if I could find a vegan-friendly option, the cook — who happened to be passing by– offered to make one for me.

Happy as can be, we went in, listened to some beautiful music, and I ate a meal I will never forget– a delicious pasta with beans and herbs– made specially for me.

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Lentil BolognesePasta and legumes are made for each other. Together they are perfectly nutritious and delicious vegan eats because they pack a huge protein and fiber wallop. And although you’d think — with all that olive oil floating around every pasta recipe you see– that you’d never be able to make one that was tasty and low-fat, truth is that legumes offer a perfect opportunity to create  pasta dishes that are low-fat or even fat-free and utterly flavorful.

My Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese recipe today is a perfect example of a pasta sauce that’s meaty, delicious, healthy and — best of all– easy.  This is also a versatile dish that would  go great with not just pasta but also with quinoa or brown rice. I have a fat-free option for you in the recipe, but keep in mind that you are using just one teaspoon of oil for a recipe that makes eight servings, which means you get no more than 5 calories per serving from the fat.

To serve the bolognese, use a pasta that’s either broad– like pappardelle– or a shaped pasta like penne rigate, elbows, or shell pasta. You want something that’s wide enough to serve as a vehicle for the bolognese, or shaped so it will suck in and hold the sauce. The bolognese is gluten-free, so  if you are a gf’er you can make it with gluten-free pasta. You might want to first read my helpful hints on cooking gluten-free pasta.

Now for the recipe. Enjoy!

Lentil Bolognese

Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup French puy lentils (brown lentils or masoor dal are a perfectly delicious substitute)
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (use water if you don’t have this)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Soak the lentils in enough water to cover and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a crockpot turned to the high setting, combine the oil, onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Add 1/2 tsp salt and half of the ground black pepper. Give it all a good stir, cover with the lid, and walk away from it for 30 minutes. (You can make this dish fat-free by adding a couple of tablespoons of stock instead of the oil). I find this first extra step of “sweating” the mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery really helps build the flavor.
  3. After 30 minutes, take off the lid, give everything a good stir, and add the lentils, tomatoes, vegetable stock, dry herbs, chipotle chili, remaining black pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Mix well and cover the crockpot again. Let the bolognese sauce cook for two hours on the high setting or until the lentils are tender. The carrots will still have some bite, which is wonderful. Check salt and add more if needed.
  5. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add to the crockpot and give everything a good stir. Add some of the pasta cooking liquid if the pasta is too dry.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
Calories: 123 Fat: 1 gram Carbohydrates: 21.6 grams Fiber: 9.1 grams Protein: 7.6 grams

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Greens and Beans

Pasta with Greens and BeansI made this Pasta with Greens and Lima Beans in an awful hurry the other night. I was nursing a cold but I was also craving a big, comforting bowl of pasta with great texture and flavor. It had to be nutritious enough to see me through the illness, and  flavorful enough to appeal to my hibernating tastebuds. But above all, it had to be something that didn’t keep me in the kitchen for more than 30 minutes, tops.

So into the pot went a bunch of Yu Choy greens that I had picked up at the Asian store. It’s a veggie from the broccoli family with thin, edible stems and it’s very, very tasty. You can substitute spinach or kale if you can’t find this or don’t want to use it. I also had on hand a bag of frozen lima beans that I zapped in the microwave for a few seconds and in they went.

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Pasta with Greens and Beans
The rest of the ingredients were pantry staples: garlic, red pepper flakes, parsley, ground black pepper and a few walnuts for crunch and more protein. I used orzo because it is always the one pasta I can count to have on hand– I dunno, it’s something about that rice-y shape. But you could substitute another pasta– bow ties would be fabulous here, or even spaghetti broken into 2-inch bits.

I need to crawl back under the covers now, but before I go here’s the recipe. Enjoy the weekend, all!

Pasta with Greens and Beans

Pasta with Greens and Lima Beans
Recipe Type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
An easy pasta recipe that’s perfect for a healthy dinner or a takeout lunch.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of orzo pasta (feel free to substitute another pasta, like bow ties or spaghetti. You can use gluten-free pasta to make the recipe gluten-free)
  • 2 cups of frozen lima beans. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and zap for 6 minutes. Set aside.
  • 1 big bunch of Yu Choy greens, chopped. Use spinach or kale as a substitute.
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping tbsp capers
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in the microwave for two minutes, then chopped into smaller pieces
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta per package directions until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic and heat them together, allowing the garlic flavor to infuse the oil.
  3. As the garlic starts to turn color and becomes lightly blonde, add the red pepper flakes and ground black pepper.
  4. Stir for a few seconds, then add the chopped Yu Choy greens and salt to taste. Stir thoroughly. Don’t be alarmed if the greens look like a lot– they will wilt down quite a bit.
  5. Cover the saucepan and let the greens cook about five minutes until they have wilted and cooked down. Add the lima beans and stir well to mix.
  6. Add the zest, capers, lemon juice, walnuts and parsley. Now add the cooked pasta and stir everything together.Check salt and add more if needed.
  7. You can eat as is, or drizzle some more extra virgin olive oil before serving, if you don’t mind the extra calories (hey, EVOO is good for you). It’s delicious either way.
Calories: 289 Fiber: 6.4 grams Protein: 11.8 grams

 

Pasta Puttanesca, Gluten-Free

Gluten-free pasta puttanescaI am not a big fan of tomato-based pasta sauces, but there is one — just one– dish that makes me feel like I’ve died and gone to Italian food heaven: Pasta Puttanesca.

Perhaps that’s largely because the tomato flavor in Pasta Puttanesca is not overriding. Instead, it has the olives and the capers and the parsley and the anchovies that give it that complex, rich, deep, amazing flavor… wait, did I just say anchovies? On a VEGAN blog?

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Ok, relax, I was just messing with ya. But here’s the truth. Pasta Puttanesca without anchovies is pretty much pasta in just another tomato sauce because let’s face it: the anchovies give the sauce that rich saltiness and that sea-like flavor that defines this dish. Because a big part of cooking vegan is giving up animal foods without giving up any of the flavor, I came up with a perfect solution for the anchovy dilemma that I shared with you when I posted my Vegan Slut’s Spaghetti way back when– a combination of seaweed and tamari.  The seaweed adds the ocean-y flavor that’s so integral to Pasta Puttanesca, and the tamari adds that equally important deep, salty richness.

Gluten-free pasta puttanescaGluten-free pasta puttanescaI made this pasta gluten-free and because there are so many new gluten-free eaters, or so it seems, after the dawn of 2014,  I want to include some simple instructions helpful for any cook new to gluten-free pasta:

-Gluten-free pasta tends to be — like many gluten-free foods out there — starchy. So try to cook the pasta in lots and lots of water– it wouldn’t hurt to double up on the amount of water you use for your regular pasta. You will see evidence of the starch in the water which will turn milky white after a few minutes of cooking.

-Like with any pasta, salt your pasta cooking water liberally. Remember to stir your gluten-free pasta regularly to separate the strands and  don’t overcook it because it will turn into mush — al dente is key here, so test the doneness and texture of your pasta often in the last few minutes of cooking.

-Also, as with any pasta, don’t let it sit around after it’s cooked and before you add it to the sauce– because that’s when the noodles start to stick together,  when they have nothing else to do.  Remember your sauce can sit around for a while before you add the pasta noodles– you can always reheat it — but not the other way round.

So now that you have the basic primer, here’s the recipe for my gluten-free Pasta Puttanesca, a treat you can cook and enjoy in a hurry on a weeknight or a relaxed weekend when you don’t want to spend half the day cooking. Try feeding this to someone who wouldn’t be seen within 10 feet of a vegan meal and see if they can tell the difference. I betcha they won’t.

Gluten-free pasta puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca, Gluten-Free
Recipe Type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces of gluten-free spaghetti. I used DeBole’s rice, quinoa and amaranth spaghetti)
  • 2 tbsp powdered seaweed (I crumpled up Nori sheets, put them in my spice grinder and gave it a spin. You could try another seaweed.)
  • 1 tbsp Tamari
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup pitted, oil-cured olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp capers
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and red pepper and toss until the garlic turns lightly golden.
  3. Add the powdered seaweed and stir for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, olives, oregano, parsley, and capers. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes release their juices and the juices start to thicken.
  5. Add the tamari and more salt, if needed. Season with ground black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat, and turn off the heat. Garnish with more parsley if you like, and serve hot.

 

Lime Orzo with Bell Peppers

Lime OrzoGorging on all that sweet stuff around the holidays makes me really hungry for some good, clean, simple food. Like this Lime Orzo with Green Peppers which I put together in a few minutes one recent night.

Orzo is a popular pasta around our house, partly, I imagine, because it reminds the rice-loving Desi of his favorite grain. I almost always have some in the pantry. My only peeve is that I can never find a wholegrain version where I shop.

Lime Orzo

vegan lime orzoI took the inspiration for my lime orzo from this recipe because I loved the technique used to cook the orzo and also the addition of dried mint. But I wanted to make my dish healthier, so in went some sauteed onions and green bell peppers. You could add almost any veggie to this dish– zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower or even some greens would be great in here. Next time I will also add some cooked chickpeas or white beans to give the orzo a protein boost.

This is a really simple recipe but the mint and the lime and the peppers add layer upon layer of flavor, making it quite special.  Try it. You will be hooked.

Lime Orzo

Lime Orzo with Bell Peppers
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A simple and clean pasta recipe that your family will love
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: Six
Ingredients
  • 2 cups orzo
  • 5 cups water
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 green bell peppers, cut into a small dice
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime. Add more if you like your orzo tangier.
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat the water along with 1 tsp of olive oil, cayenne, salt, black pepper, mint and orzo. Cook for about 15 minutes until the orzo is al dente and has absorbed almost all of the water.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, heat a saucepan with the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and green peppers and saute until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Now add the cooked pasta and mix.
  4. Stir in the lime juice and add salt and ground pepper if needed.
  5. Serve hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 255 Fat: 2.8 g Carbohydrates: 48.5 g Sugar: 6.3 Fiber: 3.7 g Protein: 8

Lime Orzo

Pasta with Bean Ragout

pasta with bean ragout

I have for you today this delicious Pasta with Bean Ragout. With whole-wheat fettuccine. And two kinds of beans. And greens, and carrots, and tomatoes. Can it possibly get any better than that?

If you are looking for a weeknight dish that cooks up in a hurry and also makes a convenient brown bag lunch you can stop right now and put the pot on. I used two kinds of beans in this recipe– Great Northern Beans and some jewel-red kidney beans (rajma)– because I wanted their different, distinct flavors and textures and also all that great protein they bring along.

pasta with bean ragout

The greens were a bit of an afterthought, but an afterthought that worked. I had a big box of fresh, organic spring greens sitting in the refrigerator and begging to become anything but a salad (have I told you I’m not a big fan?) So into the pasta they went, right at the end of cooking, and wilted just enough to become perfectly tender.

This is, like most of my recipes, a very versatile one. You can substitute another kind of bean (black would be great, or pinto, or even chickpeas). And you can use all kinds of veggies– green peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and kale would all work perfectly.

The sauce is light and flavorful but robust enough to leave you licking the bowl after you’ve slurped up the last of the pasta. And the bean ragout is quite able to stand on its own as a separate dish, thank you, that you can soak up with some crusty wholegrain bread.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

pasta with bean ragout, vegan recipe

Pasta with Bean Ragout
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 16-oz package of fettuccine pasta. I cut up the fettuccine ribbons into 2-inch bits to make this an easier lunch to brown bag, but you can leave it whole if you'd rather.
  • 1 cup of dried, mixed red kidney beans and Great Northern Beans or 3 cups of canned beans. (Use chickpeas, black beans or pinto beans for a variation)
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled and then finely chopped
  • 1 14-oz can of diced tomatoes (feel free to sub with two fresh tomatoes)
  • 5 cups of packed spring greens (use spinach or kale for a variation)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. If using dry beans, soak them in hot water for an hour or cold water overnight. Pressure cook or cook on stovetop until they are tender. If cooking on the stovetop, cover the beans with at least an inch of water, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 60-90 minutes or until tender. Keep an eye on the beans and add more water if the beans dry up during cooking.
  2. Cook the pasta per package directions in salted water.
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan.
  4. Add the chopped onion, bay leaves, and some salt and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Don't let them brown.
  5. Add the garlic and saute for a few seconds.
  6. Add the carrots and wine, if using, and saute for another five minutes.
  7. Add the beans and tomatoes and a cup of the beans' cooking liquid or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7-8 minutes. Add the rosemary and stir it in.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and greens and mix well. Turn off the heat.
  9. Add some ground black pepper to taste and more salt, if needed.
  10. Serve hot.

Pasta with Bean Ragout

pasta with bean ragout