This vegan ragù is the ultimate comfort food and it will easily become one of your favourite plant-based pasta sauces: it only requires a few simple ingredients along with seitan and it’s even better the day after (not just in my opinion… that’s chemistry, folks!).
Ragù (or “ragù alla Bolognese”) is a traditional Italian sauce from the area called Emilia-Romagna (my homeland!). Widely known also as “Bolognese sauce”, it’s a meat-based preparation and each town (and sometimes even each person) has its own variations: in that area, we take food pretty seriously and people easily end up arguing about these differences regardless of them being major or minor changes.
This vegan ragù made with seitan has been the first recipe I recreated in a meatless version years ago when I decided to change my diet and reduce the consumption of meat (I then decided to follow a completely vegetarian diet first and vegan soon after but this is another story!). The reason behind this choice wasn’t the will to transform each meat-based recipe into something else: we are creatures of habit and where I come from, most families are used to make a big pot of traditional ragù each week and eat it with pasta, bread, and sometimes even a risotto, so I think I’m not the only one who, after choosing to eat less meat, naturally started to make a plant-based ragù just out of habit.
Currently, even if most of the meals I cook in the everyday life are vegetarian, I don’t follow a specific diet but this plant-based ragù has a special place in my heart and on my table. I often talk about food saying that is way more than just a bunch of calories or nutrients and this is a great representation of what I mean: this ragù reminds me of my first attempts to change my diet, the small apartment in Bologna I lived in while I was in college, my boyfriend who always asks for more every time I make it, and much more! I can honestly say I prefer this version to the traditional one and probably is not just for the taste.
MORE DETAILS ABOUT THIS RECIPE
- COOKING TIME: this veggie version, like the traditional one, is pretty easy to make but needs to be cooked slowly over a few hours to get a truly flavourful result. To find a good balance between reality and taste, I would say you need a cooking time between 2 and 4 hours (some people cook the traditional one for an entire day or even more!). Sure, you could make it in 20 minutes but it won’t taste the same.
- HOW TO PAIR THIS SAUCE: to get the most out of this ragù, use it with tagliatelle or pappardelle. Even something different like rigatoni, penne, freshly made tortelli or potato gnocchi would work well but, please, avoid using spaghetti: there’s a big debate on this point because a dish called “spaghetti alla Bolognese” is pretty famous worldwide but you won’t find it in Bologna!
- WHY USING SEITAN? If you try to have a look online, you’ll find hundreds of ideas for a vegan Bolognese sauce: lentils, black beans, mushrooms, dry soy chunks, tofu… I tried all of them but nothing makes a good plant-based pasta sauce like seitan (unfortunately, this is not an option for someone who needs to avoid gluten or wheat – if you’d like me to share a gluten-free version of this sauce, let me know and I’ll work on it!).
WHAT IS SEITAN?
Seitan (sometimes called “wheat protein”) is made by rinsing away the starch from a dough made with wheat flour, so it’s essentially a high-protein food made of gluten (it can also be prepared at home using a special flour called vital wheat gluten or you can buy it in a ready to eat version). Seitan has a high protein content and it can be a good alternative for creating a meatless meal with a different twist. It must be avoided by people who can’t eat gluten or wheat. Commercially available options can be rich in sodium, so just pay attention to this point and build your meal accordingly to your needs.
MY FAMOUS SEITAN RAGU’ (VEGAN)
- 200 g seitan
- 500 ml tomato passata
- 130 g carrots (approx. 2 medium-sized carrots)
- 50 g celery (1-2 medium-sized stalks)
- 1 shallot
- 3-4 sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 tsp paprika
- a pinch of black pepper
- a pinch of sea salt
- Organise your ingredients before starting to cook: prepare the finely chopped shallot and, with a blender, reduce into small pieces both the other vegetables and the seitan (for this ingredient you want to get a kind of “minced” texture) – keep these 3 preparations into separate bowls.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pot and add the shallot, then stir until it starts to turn golden. Suddenly after, add the other vegetables in the same pot and stir well for approx. a minute. Following again the same procedure, add the seitan and mix well.
- The last few ingredients to add are the tomato passata and the spices. At the begin, I usually add just a pinch of salt, the paprika, and 1⁄2 tsp of freshly crushed black pepper but, when the ragù will be ready, I’ll taste it and adjust the spices according to my preferences.
- Add also a little bit of water (just the right amount to keep your ingredients slightly covered), put a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat.
- Cook your ragù stirring occasionally for at least 1 hour and a half, even better if you can cook it for 2-4 hours (you’ll obviously need to add more water while the ragù is cooking but keep in mind that the final result should be creamy, not watery – remove the lid for the last 15-20 minutes).
- For this preparation, a classic stockpot or casserole dish will work well, since you need something with enough space for all the ingredients, a lid to keep everything covered while cooking, and a good base to allow you to cook the ragù for a few hours (using these ingredients you’ll be able to make a pasta sauce for 3-4 people).
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