Spaghetti with ‘Sausage’, Zucchini and Mushrooms (Vegan)

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This recipe is a re-boot of my family’s favorite pasta.  It’s incredibly flavorful and loaded with sausage, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes.  The difference is that I substituted Beyond Meat Hot Italian Sausage for traditional meat sausage.  I haven’t made this recipe for about five years, since I stopped eating meat, so I was happy when Beyond Meat introduced their wonderful vegan sausages.  Top with freshly grated Vio-Life Vegan Parm for a salty, nutty flavor.  The recipe tastes just the same as it used to, but now its guilt-free.  I guess you really can go back home…

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This is one of the first recipes I started making early in my marriage back in the 80’s.  I had no idea how to cook, so I ordered a subscription to a monthly book series, “Great Meals in Minutes” which is really how I learned to cook.  The format of the books is quite brilliant and shows step by step instructions, but most importantly teaches HOW TO HAVE EVERYTHING DONE AT THE SAME TIME!  which is always the biggest challenge in cooking.  With that in mind, I try to design my recipes incorporating all the steps including a photo of what the dish is supposed to look like.  Call me needy, but I like to know what I’m shooting for.

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This recipe is based on one that originally came from the Pasta Menus book of this series. It quickly became a favorite of ours and then of our kids too, once they were old enough that we didn’t have to separate their food into piles that didn’t touch each other any longer.  Once you’re there, you’re golden.  However, for those parents with young kids, this recipe also worked when we were at that phase of life.  I would fix the kids plates with plain pasta with butter with sauteed zucchini (or defrosted peas) and plain sauteed sausage.  Then I would proceed to make the proper dish for the grown ups. Easy, and I didn’t have to become a short order cook in the process.

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SHORT CUTS & SUBSTITUTIONS: Over the years, I have taken short cuts when necessary.  I think this dish is best when the sausage and veggies are cooked separately and added to the sauce toward the end, as their flavors and textures are retained, however, I have also had good results doing it all in one pot.  Saute the onions and garlic, then add the sausage and cook about five minutes.  Add mushrooms and wine and let evaporate.  Then add tomatoes, herbs, and zucchini.  Simmer while pasta is cooking.  Another short cut is to use diced tomatoes with Italian herbs already included.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, substitute crushed tomatoes.  If it is still tomato season, you can use fresh tomatoes.  Just parboil them for a few minutes in boiling water.  Remove with a slotted spoon and peel when cool enough to handle.  Dice and use as directed in the recipe.  Or go the lazy way and just dice whole.  The skins will mostly disappear into the sauce if you cook them a little longer.

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VEGAN PRODUCTS:I like to share new vegan products as I find ones I like. (FYI, there are many I don’t like and no one pays me to recommend products) BEYOND MEAT offers a Sweet and a Hot Italian Sausage.  I like them both but think the hot has a little better flavor without being too spicy..  The sausage has a pleasing texture too.  You can cook them as you would any meat sausage but not for as long since they aren’t really raw and you don’t want them to dry out.  I also really like the VIO LIFE JUST LIKE PARMESAN.  It comes in a small wedge so you can freshly grate it as needed.  It tastes just like regular parmesan.  Click the underlined product names above for nutritional information on their products.

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PASTA TIPS: Don’t forget to save a cup of pasta water before draining!  It literally is the magic that restaurants use to make a sauce glisten.  Its not the same as adding hot water.  Pasta water contains essential starch that smooths out your sauce and gives it a velvety quality.  You should never rinse pasta after cooking (unless you are making a cold pasta salad) and pasta should remain wet, not dry, because the starch is what helps the sauce stick to the pasta.  Adding oil to your cooked pasta to prevent sticking actually prevents your sauce from sticking to the pasta which may seem counter-intuitive. Instead, add back a little pasta water.  Trust me, pasta water will change your life…

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  SPAGHETTI WITH ‘SAUSAGE’, ZUCCHINI AND MUSHROOMS (VEGAN)

  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil(divided)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsn fresh chopped basil or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
  • Salt (for pasta water)
  • 1 lb spaghetti or spaghettini
  • 2-3 small zucchini (1 lb)
  • 5-6 mushrooms (criminy or white)
  • 1 lb sweet or spicy Beyond Meat Italian Sausages
  • 3 Tbsn red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated vegan parmesan cheese (optional)

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  • Chop onion and garlic finely. Heat half of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat and saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
  • Set pasta water with salt and a drizzle of olive oil to bring to a boil.

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  • Add tomatoes, basil and thyme to onion mixture and stir to combine. I like to rinse the tomato can out with about a quarter cup of water and add to the pan. Simmer 10 minutes on low.

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  • While sauce is cooking, slice zucchini into 1/8 inch rounds. Wipe mushrooms with damp paper towel, remove tough ends and thinly slice

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  • Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat and saute zucchini several minutes until lightly browned  Remove zucchini to a plate and set aside

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  • Beyond Meat sausage has no casings to remove.  Just break off small pieces with your fingers. Saute sausage in the same pan, breaking it into a crumble with a wooden spoon.  Add mushrooms and mix gently.  Add wine and let it evaporate.

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  • Add zucchini and sausage mixture into the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Let simmer over low heat while pasta is cooking. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Cook spaghetti according to directions.  Before draining, remove one cup of pasta water and set aside.  Drain but do not rinse pasta.

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  • Add about a 1/2 cup pasta water to sauce and stir to combine.  Its the magic ingredient that binds everything together!  If it seems too dry or too skimpy, add the rest and simmer until ready to serve.

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  • Spoon sauce on top of pasta or mix all together, depending on your preference. Serve with grated parmesan if desired.

Spaghetti with Vegan Sausage, Zucchini and Mushrooms

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil(divided)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsn fresh chopped basil or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
  • Salt (for pasta water)
  • 1 lb spaghetti or spaghettini
  • 2-3 small zucchini (1 lb)
  • 5-6 mushrooms (criminy or white)
  • 1 lb sweet or spicy Beyond Meat Italian Sausages
  • 3 Tbsn red wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated vegan parmesan cheese (optional)
    1. Chop onion and garlic finely
    2. Heat half of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat and saute onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
    3. Set pasta water with salt and a drizzle of olive oil to bring to a boil.
    4. Add tomatoes, basil and thyme to onion mixture and stir to combine. I like to rinse the tomato can out with about a quarter cup of water and add to the pan. Simmer 10 to minutes on low.
    5. While sauce is cooking, slice zucchini into 1/8 inch rounds
    6. Wipe mushrooms with damp paper towel, remove tough ends and thinly slice
    7. Beyond Meat sausage has no casings to remove. Just break into small pieces with your fingers.
    8. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium heat and saute zucchini several minutes until lightly browned  Remove zucchini to a plate and set aside
    9. Saute sausage in the same pan, breaking it into a crumble with a wooden spoon.  Add mushrooms and mix gently.  Add wine and let it evaporate.
    10. Add zucchini and sausage mixture into the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Let simmer over low heat while pasta is cooking. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
    11. Cook spaghetti according to directions.  Before draining, remove one cup of pasta water and set aside.  Drain but do not rinse pasta.
    12. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup pasta water to sauce and stir to combine.  Its the magic ingredient!  If it seems too dry or too skimpy, add the rest.
    13. Spoon sauce on top of pasta or mix all together, depending on your preference. Serve with grated parmesan if desired.

Meatless Monday – Beet Veggie Burgers with Pickled Onions

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What is more American than a juicy burger, except for maybe baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, and I would argue about that… Well these burgers may not be traditional in that they are plant based, primarily quinoa and pinto beans and they get their lovely color from raw shredded beets, but they can definitely go head to head with a beef burger.  I thought these were really good, especially with the pickled red onions, butter lettuce, a little avocado, mustard and mayo, boom!  I could eat these once a week!

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I found this recipe in the Hannaford fresh Magazine, May – June 2019 this summer and I’ve been wanting to make them ever since.  I have always liked veggie burgers, not because I miss meat, but because there is something so iconic about eating a burger.  It’s the ultimate comfort food. (Sorry mac and cheese)  I was immediately intrigued by the addition of raw shredded beet in this recipe. You may have tried the increasingly popular Beyond Meat Burger which is entirely plant based and gets its red coloring from beet juice which is what piqued my interest in this recipe.  Beyond Beef is a very good beef replacement but I’m not sure where regular people go about getting pea protein isolate so… that’s where this recipe comes in. These burgers are packed with protein provided by both the pinto beans and quinoa with smoked paprika and other spices to make a really delicious burger which is easy to make.   Plus homemade is best!
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…And the magic ingredient is beets!  In spite of their homely external appearance, once peeled they are beautiful and vibrant jewel tones, proving the old adage that beauty is on the inside. In addition to providing the gorgeous red color in these burgers, beets are a great source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and iron.  One word of caution though, beet juice stains anything porous so use a ceramic cutting board or a plate when peeling.  I used my cuisinart for shredding which worked pretty well although it looked a bit like a bloodbath.
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I like to set up a burger bar so people can make their own.  This time, I set out pickled onion, avocado, dill pickles, butter lettuce and the usual condiments.  The pickled onion is a fun touch but completely optional.  Pickling red onions in half rice wine vinegar and half water softens their texture and sharpness.  It becomes a whole new vegetable!
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TIPS:  This recipe takes under 30 minutes if you are efficient, including quinoa cooking time.  Using leftover quinoa, or making it ahead, is even faster.  It does recommend refrigerating patties for a half hour before cooking to firm them up but this step can be skipped if you are pressed for time. This recipe can be made gluten free by using gluten free panko.  It can be made vegan by using an egg replacer or flaxseed combined with water. Use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal to 3 tablespoons of water for one egg.  The original recipe called for 1 cup chopped walnuts but I am allergic, so I skipped it altogether.  I don’t feel the recipe needed it but feel free to add walnuts for more heft and protein.
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BEET VEGGIE BURGERS
1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded red beet (1 small beet)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tsp. olive oil
6 hamburger buns
1/2 -1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional-see Tips above)
PICKLED RED ONION (Optional)
1 small red onion
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
  • Cook 1/2 cup of quinoa according to directions.  Pour into a large bowl to cool.

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  • While quinoa is cooking, thinly slice red onion and place in a bowl with rice vinegar and water. Cover and refrigerate until burgers are ready for serving.

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  • Mash pinto beans with a wooden spoon until mostly broken down but not completely smooth and add to quinoa.

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  • Peel raw beet with a sharp knife on a plate to save your cutting board from staining.  Shred or grate in a food processor, mandolin or box grater. Add to quinoa mixture.

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  • Add breadcrumbs, egg, garlic powder, salt, and paprika and mix until well combined.

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  • Form mixture into six thick patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. (You may be able to skip this step if you are in a hurry)

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  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add three patties and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and patties.

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  • Place cooked patties in buns and serve with pickled red onions and your other favorite toppings.

Beet Veggie Burger

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans(drained and rinsed)
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (1/2 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded red beet (1 small)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tsp. olive oil
6 hamburger buns
1/2 -1 cup finely chopped walnuts(optional-see Tips)
PICKLED RED ONION (Optional)
1 small red onion
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
  • Cook 1/2 cup of quinoa according to directions.  Pour into a large bowl to cool.
  • While quinoa is cooking, thinly slice red onion and place in a bowl with rice vinegar and water. Cover and refrigerate until burgers are ready for serving.
  • Mash pinto beans with a wooden spoon until mostly broken down but not completely smooth and add to quinoa.
  • Peel raw beet with a sharp knife on a plate to save your cutting board from staining.  Shred or grate in a food processor, mandolin or box grater. Add to quinoa mixture.
  • Add breadcrumbs, egg, garlic powder, salt, and paprika and mix until well combined.
  • Form mixture into six thick patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. (You may be able to skip this step if you are in a hurry)
  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add three patties and cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and patties.
  • Place cooked patties in buns and serve with pickled red onions and your other favorite toppings.

Meatless Monday – Mediterranean Orzo

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Toss together cooked orzo, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta and fresh herbs with a lemon dressing for a quick, fuss free meal.  I just love a dish that doesn’t need to be babied or involve a lot of prep, no oven and can be ready in 20 minutes, plus cooling time.  This delicious pasta dish is served at room temperature, so you can make it and let it sit until you are ready which makes it perfect for a summer buffet or when you have guests for dinner.  Or better yet, make this the day before and bring to room temperature to serve while you sit back and enjoy a glass of wine…

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I love this combination of flavors and colors. The orzo (which is pasta not rice) absorbs the lemon vinaigrette along with the sun dried tomatoes in oil.  The herbs and onions add a freshness while the olives and feta add a wonderful saltiness as the final touch. I have made this for a large party and tossed with roasted shrimp with great success but I prefer it just like this.  I think I like it better the next day, so feel free to make it ahead. To avoid waiting for the orzo to cool, cook it ahead of time and just toss all ingredients together for a 10 minute meal.

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In purchasing feta, I advise getting a block in water rather than already crumbled.  The quality is better and you can control the size of crumbles.  Often the pre-crumbled feta is very small and would get lost in this dish.

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MEDITERRANEAN STYLE ORZO

  • 3/4 lbs orzo pasta (or gluten free orzo)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup scallions, minced white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced or small dice
  • 8-12 oz feta cheese, large crumble or dice

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  • Cook the orzo according to package instructions, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Do not rinse.

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  • Whisk together the lemon juice,  olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the hot pasta. Mix well.

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  • Stir in the sun dried tomatoes with oil and the olives. Set aside to cool and allow the juice and flavors to absorb.  If it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.

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  • While the pasta is cooling, thinly slice the scallions, thinly slice the red onion and cut the slices in half (or finely dice) and chop the parsley.

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  • When pasta is cool, add the scallions, parsley, onion and mix well.

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  • Add the feta and stir gently. Taste and add seasoning as needed. Set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to blend (the longer the better).

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TIPS:  This recipe can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. Just bring it back to room temperature and check seasonings before serving.

Mediterranean Orzo

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 3/4 lbs orzo pasta (or gluten free orzo)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup scallions, minced white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced or small dice
  • 8-12 oz feta cheese, large crumble or dice
  1. Cook the orzo according to package instructions, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Do not rinse.
  2. Whisk together the lemon juice,  olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the hot pasta. Mix well.
  3. Stir in the sun dried tomatoes with oil and the olives. Set aside to cool and allow the juice and flavors to absorb.  If it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.
  4. While the pasta is cooling, thinly slice the scallions, thinly slice the red onion and cut the slices in half (or finely dice) and chop the parsley.
  5. When pasta is cool, add the scallions, parsley, onion and mix well.
  6. Add the feta and stir gently. Taste and add seasoning as needed. Set aside at room temperature to allow the flavors to blend (the longer the better).

TIPS:  This recipe can be made a day ahead and refrigerated overnight. Just bring it back to room temperature and check seasonings before serving.