When I was growing up, spaghetti bolognese was one of my favourite meals. Any time we were at a restaurant that offered it, I had to order a big bowl of piping hot pasta and meat sauce. The only deviation was if there was spaghetti and meatballs. I deemed that an acceptable alternative.
As the years went on, I found that after eating this glorified meal, it never sat right in my stomach. Was it because of the tomatoes, the onions, the ground beef, or a combination of them all? Those are the only three ingredients that I’ve ever had similar gut issues with in other dishes. Needless to say I was gutted that my go-to meal was wreaking havoc on my digestive system. I’ve made other renditions of spaghetti bolognese using ground turkey, bison, or chicken. They all sat a bit better in my stomach than the original version did.
As I had covered all the meat options other than fish, which I don’t find works in this case, I moved on to a vegetarian version. Don’t get me wrong, the other meats were wonderful but having close friends who are vegan or vegetarian, I need to have some quick fix meals up my sleeve should they show up for dinner. I received a food processor for Christmas last year and it is a godsend for making cauliflower rice, which is exactly what provides the “ground beef” texture in the meal. Paired with red lentil for a protein punch, even my carnivorous father enjoyed it! That’s a win in my books.
1 small head of cauliflower
2 tbsp butter
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 x 28 oz. (794 g) cans of whole plum tomatoes in thick puree
½ cup red lentils
coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 lb spaghetti
wedge of parmesan cheese
1. Slice the cauliflower in half, removing the thick centre core. Then cut into large chunks.
2. Place in a food processor, and use your hands to break up the cauliflower into florets. Do not dump all of the cauliflower at once as you’ll need to process it in batches to create uniform pieces.
3. Pulse the cauliflower 1-2 times. It will look crumbly with small florets throughout. Dump the processed cauliflower into a large bowl and repeat this step until all of the cauliflower is done.
4. In a large pot, warm the butter over low heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
5. Add the cauliflower to the pot and increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower begins to turn a light golden color, about 5-6 minutes.
6. Grate in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and red lentils. Mix until well combined.
7. Place the lid on top and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer (covered), for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 15 minutes or so, until the cauliflower is tender and the lentils are broken down. The sauce should look thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, boil a large pot of water and cook the spaghetti according to the packet’s instruction. Once the water is boiled, the pasta should take between 10-15 mins. Don’t forget that if you’re using fresh pasta it only takes 2-3 minutes so plan accordingly!
9. Portion the hearty cauliflower sauce over the pasta and top with basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve.