Hello, my loyal followers of The Vegetarian Carnivore! Today I am going to be sharing one of my favorite meat substitute recipes of all time. I realized it has been a little while since I covered an actual imitation meat recipe, so I decided that today’s the day! It is a vegetarian spaghetti bolognese recipe that will blow your mind. If you are vegan, it is completely customizable so you are also taken care of 😉 And here’s the best part – It takes literally 20 minutes from start to finish! Seriously.
But don’t just take my word for it – my meat loving college best friend said he literally only knew this had no meat in it because I made it. If he were given this at a restaurant, he would think it were actual ground beef. I know that you are all going to absolutely love it.
Trader Joe’s to the Rescue!
As someone who tries and tests imitation meat recipes, I look for 3 specific qualities in the dish: physical appearance, texture, and seasoning. It dawned on me that while many people look at tofu, tempeh, and other vegetarian options as bland, chicken and a lot of other meats don’t have an intrinsic taste. So I threw that reasoning out the window and figured out what on Earth is the dead giveaway. I realized that what people really look for is texture. And the seasonings can be pretty easily taken care of after that.
Enter: Trader Joe’s. My favorite place ever. Seriously, when I was stressed out studying for exams in college, I would go hang out by the produce and cheese aisle at Trader Joe’s. Call me crazy, but living across the street from this beautiful store gave me the chance to learn and experiment with the products, inside out and backwards. And so this is where I met my new friend, beefless ground beef crumbles. I’ve experimented with so many recipes with this godsend, but this one is perhaps my favorite.
This product is dark brown and juicy and slightly chewy in texture. Since I have never been a meat eater, I knew I had to give it to my friend to try to gain the texture authenticity stamp. This one was a winner!
OK, let’s jump right into it!
Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
- Spaghetti, 32 oz standard pack (I like to use whole wheat just to make the meal a little more filling, but feel free to use whatever kind you like best)
- Trader Joe’s Beefless Ground Beef, 1 pack
- Marinara Sauce, 1 bottle (or you can make your own, recipe coming soon 😉 )
- Italian Seasoning, 2 tbsp
- Olive Oil, 2 tsp
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- Shredded Parmesan, to taste (leave it out or replace with some nutritional yeast if vegan)
- In a large pot, boil some salted water and cook your spaghetti. Would you believe me when I say that this is the rate limiting step?!
- In a large nonstick pan, heat your olive oil and directly put all your ground beef in it. Saute for 1 minute. Reduce flame to simmer – you don’t want your beef to burn. Also remember that since this is not actually meat, you do not need to worry about getting sick from not “cooking it through all the way.”
- Add the Italian seasoning. I like to add a generous helping, and I have given 2 tbsp as a general guideline but you can adjust this according to your taste.
- Now add the crushed red pepper and really saute it into the mixture. The heat will bring out the spice and aroma and it is absolutely mouthwatering. Add this according to how spicy you want your meal to be.
- Add the bottle of marinara directly into the pan and mix well.
- Add the Parmesan or nutritional yeast, if desired. Mix well to really get that melty texture 😉
- Take the pan off the flame.
- When the pasta is done cooking, use a large slotted spaghetti spoon to directly put the pasta into the sauce mixture. I like my pasta well done, and getting that texture with wheat pasta takes a little more cooking time, so depending on the type of pasta you are using and the texture you are going for, your overall time could be +/- 5 minutes or so. I do recommend that you put the pasta directly from the starchy water as this adds a little extra oomph to the texture of your overall dish.
- Serve generously and enjoy! 🙂
A Few Pointers
Add this recipe right up there with my most tried and tested and perfected. It is easily my favorite quick meal to make in a pinch, and it is so delicious. Even some of my family members who don’t care for imitation meat had to admit this was really good. I do have to say that my Indian taste buds had a huge say in this dish. I am a spicy food lover so the level of spice from the red pepper in my version was very high. This would not be the spice level at an Italian restaurant. I was also very generous in my Parmesan addition – I really get a kick out of watching the shreds melt down into the sauce 😉
Make This Right Now!
I cannot think of any excuses as to why someone would not try this right away. It requires so little time commitment, it requires no crazy baking or oven time like lasagna or ziti, and the results are absolutely unbelievable. This one’s a classic, vegetarian carnivores, and you will be happy you tried it out.
I am so excited to hear what you all think about this one! Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts. And if you have a meal that you would like to see transformed into vegetarian or vegan, include that as well and I will get cracking!
Love you all,
Janani <3 <3