Some cold winter days require hearty meals that warm you from the inside out. Recently trying a gluten-free approach to my diet, I came across the Veggetti spiral vegetable slicer at the store. At under $15 dollars, I had to try this gadget that promoted a healthier approach to a pasta meal. I endeavored to create a ragu sauce that would add the health benefits of more vegetables to a traditional ragu. This eggplant and mushroom ragu came about simply because I had those ingredients on hand.
I believe that the start to any great meal is a prepared pantry. You are more likely to throw together a meal if you always have a store of basic ingredients at the ready. The resulting recipe is a hearty meal that is significantly cut in calories by omitting the traditional semolina pasta and replacing it with zucchini spiral sliced “spaghetti” noodles. I have come to use my spiral slicer at least once a week in my kitchen, and I do find it works best with a medium sized zucchini. Try out this recipe with different ground meats too. I like to have a pound of some type of ground meat in my freezer for just this kind of pantry meal that is quick and easy to throw together. Enjoy!
- ½ Lb. 90% lean hamburger meat or your favorite ground meat
- 1 package sliced mushrooms
- ¼ lg. eggplant peeled and diced into cubes (approx 1 ½ cups)
- ¼ red onion diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed or minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1tsp – 1 Tbsp sugar (optional – if needed to neutralize tomato acidity)
- Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
- Water up to 1/4 cup
- 4 medium zucchini prepared with spiral slicer (1 per person)
Saute mushrooms with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove crushed garlic ( I use a now vintage , a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper. Brown mushrooms until cooked through. Remove from heat to bowl.
Brown eggplant cubes, and diced red onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 clove crushed garlic, a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper. Saute until eggplant is slightly translucent and browned on the outside. Remove from pan into bowl with mushrooms.
Brown ½ lb. of ground meat of your choice in pan. Drain any excess fat and add 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, ½ can of diced tomatoes with juice, and add to pan the sauteed mushrooms and eggplant. Simmer sauce and taste. Add up to 1 tbsp sugar to reduce any acidity (to desired taste), and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, add up to ¼ cup of water, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, spiral slice your zucchini “pasta”. I suggest stopping the twist every 5 or so turns so that you have reasonable lengths of “pasta”. Use a steamer insert in a medium sized pan with ½ cup of boiling water at the bottom. Cook your 4 zucchinis in two separate batches so that they cook evenly. Place zucchini “pasta” in steamer basket and steam until strands are just turning translucent in color toss once while in steamer basket to make sure that strands are cooking evenly (approx 3 minutes). Remove basket from pot and allow to drain for a minute with a lid covering it to drain excess liquid, and move to warmed serving bowl. Repeat these steps with the last of the zucchini. Be sure to drain any excess liquid from zucchini strands that have been standing before serving.
Serve “pasta” and sauce, and top with your favorite shredded Parmesan cheese.