A veggie-friendly version of the classic pasta dish
A good ragù is something of a classic dish and its flavour can easily be enjoyed by vegetarians with just a few substitutions. The key thing to remember is that soy mince won't offer any flavour of its own like meat will, so we have to add a good amount of 'umami' flavourings to make up for it - the slowly sweated veg, the red wine, the dried mushrooms, stock and worcestershire sauce will all help you achieve that deep savoury flavour that's the mark of a good Bolognese sauce. The raw crushed garlic and thyme added at the end also add an extra depth of flavour to help in this regard.
Also, when it comes to the spaghetti, cook it until *just* done (al dente) so that when it is added to the sauce at the end and mixed with a little of the pasta water, the spaghetti strands will properly 'slurp up' and marry with the sauce, creating something truly delicious. A final flurry of grated cheese, basil leaf, black pepper and a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil will make this dish worthy of any meat equivalent.
NOTE: There are three items present in it this dish that could contain animal products and you'll need to watch out for if you want this to be strictly vegetarian - these are the red wine (might contain finings), the Worcestershire sauce (anchovies) and the parmesan/hard cheese (could contain rennet). 100% Vegetarian-friendly versions of all three items are readily available, just be sure to read the labels when purchasing.
You Will Need
Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a large, lidded pan and add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, the mushrooms (if using), and most of the crushed garlic and MOST of the chopped fresh thyme (you want to save about 1 tsp of each for use later). Give everything a good stir, reduce the heat to low and put the lid on, leaving it slightly ajar. Continue to cook until the carrots are nicely soft, about 15 minutes or so.
Now, turn up the heat to high and add all the wine. Reduce until most of the liquid has gone, about 5-6 minutes. Then, add a large pinch of salt, a big grinding of black pepper, the tomato paste, the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, the vegetarian stock, the Worcestershire sauce, the dried oregano and bring to the boil. Then, reduce the heat, add the soy mince and leave to simmer on a medium heat for 15 minutes, until all the flavours are well incorporated and most of the liquid is reduced and you are left with a fairly thick, unctuous sauce. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Cook your spaghetti until al dente in salted boiling water. Meanwhile, take the Bolognese sauce off the heat and stir in the reserved crushed garlic and thyme from earlier. Drain your spaghetti, saving 2-3 tbsp of pasta boiling water. Add the pasta and reserved water to the sauce, and toss well. Place the lid back on the pan and leave it sit for about 1 minute. Finally, serve in large bowls, topped with the grated cheese, basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and extra black pepper to taste.