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Rach shares a vegetarian twist on a classic Tuscan-style meat sauce by swapping in her favorite plant-based meat alternative.
"Recently I made this sauce for a cook-along on Zoom with friends that included vegetarians and friends that have food allergies. It is a rich, meaty sauce made with plant-based meat, but of course this ragu can be made with ground beef or beef and veal or pork in combination. John, who of course eats meat, actually prefers the Impossible (a brand of meatless beef substitute) that we like to use for this dish." –Rach
Rach's Shortcut Tip: Fortify 3 cups of vegetable stock with a cup of dried porcini mushrooms and reduce by ⅓.
For the stock, preheat oven to 400˚F, add stock ingredients to a large oven-safe pot, coat with EVOO and roast 30 minutes to lightly brown. Add water to come to top of vegetables, turn oven up to 425˚F, and roast 1 hour to reduce by a third. Let cool to room temperature and strain.
For the meatless ragu, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Heat a Dutch oven or large saucepot over medium heat with EVOO, add carrot, celery, fennel, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, salt and white pepper and soften 5 to 7 minutes. Add meat alternative or meat, crumble and let the color change but do not brown the protein. Add paste and stir a minute or 2, add wine and let it absorb, add the stock and bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to low and gently simmer 30 minutes.
Salt water and cook the pasta to al dente; for dried pici, that is about 22 minutes. Reserve about ¾ cup of cooking water, then drain pasta. Combine the pasta with about ⅔ of the sauce, the reserved water and the grated cheese, toss 1 minute and serve in shallow bowls topped with remaining sauce.