I’ve been on the road, and I can’t wait to have a simple dinner at home — something like spaghetti with a vegetable-packed tomato sauce and a salad, probably. It’s not just the dinner! It’s the quiet afternoon in my kitchen that comes before it, the time to take care of stuff like emptying out the compost, or sharpening a knife, or cleaning a cast-iron while my dogs hang out and snore in their beds. After I’ve been away, a day like this can feel so luxurious.
I like to improvise my sauce, using onion and garlic and a ton of vegetables like fennel, carrots, celery and mushrooms, deglazing everything with wine, and then simmering it all afternoon with crushed, canned tomatoes. Then I’ll drain some boiling spaghetti, finish cooking it in the sauce, and cover bowls of it with grated cheese, soft herbs, lemon zest and black pepper.
But this week is different. I want to try Alexa Weibel’s vegan Bolognese and put it in a lasagna, in part because Lex uses walnuts and Marmite in her recipe.
That’s the intensely savory and salty yeast extract, sold as a very dark, slightly tacky paste. Sometimes when I was sick as a child, I was given quite a large spoonful of Marmite dissolved in a mug of hot water, which wasn’t pleasant. I think it makes more sense to treat it like nutritional yeast or other umami-rich ingredients and layer it into the food you’re cooking to build out the flavors.
I’m in the mood for a little prep and a long simmer, but if you’re looking for a less involved pasta, there’s always Ali Slagle’s baked Alfredo pasta. (I love broccoli rabe and double the greens, running them under cold water after they’re cooked just until they’re cool to the touch, then squeezing out the extra water and chopping them finely.)
And I really like turning this green soup, made with spinach and peas, into a proper meal by finishing it with a heap of cooked pasta shells. It’s vegetarian if you use a vegetable stock for the base and vegan if you skip the crème fraîche. I think it does needs some fat, though, because it’s so lean and green, so if you’re skipping the dairy, please season the soup extra lavishly at the end with nice olive oil. I mean, really, don’t hold back.
Source: NY Times