Hi. It’s nice to be back here again. Talking about food. Including a recipe. Thanks for your patience. I misplaced my blogging mojo but I seem to have found it again. Phew. Now please pardon me while I jump up on my high horse for a moment.
The title of this post is one of the things I hate hearing most when it comes to vegetarian food. “You won’t miss the meat!” I see it in print, I hear it come out of chefs’ mouths and it makes me crazy. I will say it to anyone who asks, I say it in my classes, and I’ve said it here, but the way to approach a switch to the vegetarian diet or even a vegetarian meal is not about substituting. You can’t take a plate with a steak, baked potato, and green beans, and then just swap out the steak for tofu. The vegetarian diet requires a shift in thinking – no longer being so hung up on protein and envisioning your plate differently.
For the people who embrace this philosophy, our way of eating can be exhilarating. So many choices! So much delicious food! New cuisines! But the bulk of our country, even though the message is coming through louder and clearer that we need to reduce our meat intake for a variety of reasons, still sees vegetarian food as boring or needs to find a way to substitute for the lack of meat. There are all kinds of fake meat out there and people are choking it down hoping it will taste like what they really want to eat, or it will give them the protein they are terrified they won’t get if they don’t have meat. And here is where I must remind you that I am not trying to convert anyone. As I always say, my own husband eats meat. I just want to help people find their way to a delicious dinner (and breakfast, lunch and a treat).
Thud. That was me sliding off my high horse. Now, I don’t use a lot of fake meat. Why? Because I never liked meat. I haven’t had it in 25 years. Meat’s flavor and texture is not something I am trying to replace in my food. This is a reason that I never have in the past, and never will in the future buy a Tofurkey. But sometimes you pause. I’ve been a bit obsessed with making orecchiete with broccoli rabe and sausage recently. Maybe this is my body’s cry for protein. Who knows. But, of course, I have been unable to find broccoli rabe when I need it. So I persevered and bought something I never had before – Field Roast Italian Sausages – and kept it really simple.
Good canned tomatoes simmered down with some onion and garlic, sliced rounds of sausage (without their plastic casings) sautéed in a pan, ear-shaped noodles in salty water boiled away, and mozzarella cheese grated. A heavy foil-covered pan went into the oven and 30 minutes later we had a hearty and tasty dinner. It’s good to be back here. Thanks again for all the support.
(Because I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, there is a big backlog of what I was writing about one, two, and three years ago. I will pick my favorites and highlight them in a separate post today or tomorrow.)
Baked Orecchiete with (Veg) Sausage and Tomato Basil Sauce
Dana Treat Original
Field roast is sold in links of 4, I only used 3 of them in this dish. I’ve also made this same dish with a more penne shaped pasta and it worked great as well. A 28-ounce can of tomatoes will be enough sauce for this dish but it is a bit dry. If you like your pasta saucier, add another 14-ounce can. Finally, you may wonder why I would suggest you buy canned whole tomatoes and then purée them rather than just buy puréed tomatoes. I once read that the lesser quality tomatoes end up in diced and puréed cans because you can’t see their imperfections. For this reason, this article said, it’s best to buy the whole ones, so that is what I do.
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3 links Field Roast vegetarian sausage, Italian style
1 pound orecchiete pasta
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated, divided
½ cup fresh basil leaves, slivered, plus extra whole leaves for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Have a 9×13-inch baking dish handy.
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and a large pinch of salt. Stir and allow to cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the dried herbs. Cook for another 3 minutes. Meanwhile purée the tomatoes. If you have an immersion blender, you can stick the wand directly into the can – just be careful. Otherwise, pour the can into a blender and blend until smooth. (If you want to do neither of those things, you can crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot, the sauce will be chunkier.) Carefully pour the tomatoes into the saucepan (they will splatter), give the sauce a good stir, and turn the heat down to medium low. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Set aside.
Heat a medium non-stick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the slices of sausage and allow to cook, turning occasionally, until the slices are browned. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour in the pasta and allow to cook until just shy of al dente. (The pasta will continue to cook once it goes in the oven, so be sure to undercook it a bit.) Drain well and return to the pot. Pour in the sauce and toss to coat well. Stir in the sausage and the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon half of the pasta into the dish. Sprinkle on half the mozzarella. Spoon the other half of of the pasta and top with the remaining cheese. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another five minutes. Allow to sit for five minutes or so before serving.