A dish I’ll often order in Italian restaurants is pasta coated in a rich, meaty, fennel-seed studded sausage ragu, but at home, I generally try to cook without meat as much as possible. SO, I set out to see if it’s possible to recreate a good sausage ragu using vegetarian sausages. And the answer is yes it is.
The key is to find veggie/vegan sausages which mimic meat in their texture – in other words, soft and squishy enough to break up into ‘mincemeat’. I have specified this in the ingredients list too but I want to reiterate it here: DO NOT use a firm veggie sausage such as Linda Mcartney (no offence to Linda Mcartney veggie sausages – they definitely have their place!) For this recipe, you need soft sausages that you can squish into the pan and break up easily – I used Naked Glory vegan sausages, but Meatless Farm ones would work too.
First time I made this, it still lacked an umami depth that salty sausage meat usually provides, so I added a bit of marmite to rectify this and think it works nicely.
N.B – Sorry to be blasphemous to veggies out there but this is also very delicious as a non-veggie sausage ragu – just follow the recipe exactly but use pork sausages and omit the marmite!
Veggie sausage & fennel seed ragu with rigatoni
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 30 mins
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed in a garlic crusher
2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed slightly in a pestle and mortar
½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
¼ tsp oregano (dried, but fresh would work well too)
6 vegetarian sausages [IMPORTANT: the sausages should be soft and squidgy, mimicking meat sausages, such as the ones by Naked Glory or Meatless Farm. It won’t work with a firm veggie sausage like Linda Mcartney etc]
400g can chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 vegetable stock cube
1 tsp marmite
350g rigatoni (or other short pasta such as penne)
handful parsley, finely chopped, to serve
parmesan, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish, then add the chopped onions and a big pinch of salt and fry for around 5 mins, until softening. Scrape in the crushed garlic and fry for a few mins more, then add the fennel seeds, chilli flakes (if using), oregano and a good grind of black pepper.
- Once that’s all been gently cooking for around 10 mins, smush the veggie sausages into the pan using your hands, then break them up with the back of your wooden spoon or spatula until in small pieces and almost resembling mincemeat. Cook for a few minutes more, then add the tomatoes, tomato puree and two small pinches (about ¼ tsp) of sugar. In a jug, measure 300ml boiling water, crumble in a vegetable stock cube and stir in a tsp marmite until melted/dissolved in. Add this stock to the pan, then simmer for around 10-15 minutes. Taste and season accordingly.
- While the ragu is simmering, cook your pasta: Bring a large pan of water to the boil and salt it heavily, then add the pasta and cook for 1 minute less than packet instructions.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and tip into the sauce. Stir to combine, then serve in four bowls, topped with a sprinkling of parsley and some grated parmesan.