How To Make Vegetarian Pasta Sauce Like an Italian | Rigatoni all’ Ortolana
This slow-cooked vegetarian ragu combines garden vegetables, aromatic herbs and tomato passata to create a comfort dish packed with flavour: Rigatoni All’Ortolana. Mix through your favourite short pasta cooked al-dente for a restaurant-worthy weeknight meal that even meat-lovers will drool over.
Ortolana means “grower of fruits and vegetables” and tells the tale of the base of this sauce – lots of vegetables! The beauty of this dish is that you can use the vegetables you have in your garden or simply whatever you have left in the fridge, but no matter what, don’t skimp on the cheese, a key component to making this dish sing!
Vincenzo’s Plate Tips To Make Rigatoni All’Ortolana
EMBRACE CELERY (EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN)
While it’s tempting to skip ingredients you don’t like, I beg you to give celery a chance with this dish! The slow cooking process mellows its taste so only a subtle flavor is left behind.
For a slight flavor twist, consider using 1½ bottles of passata instead of blended peeled tomatoes. Passata offers a smoother, more concentrated tomato flavor and will make the sauce thicker and creamier.
SALT: THE VEGETABLE WHISPERER
When sautéing the vegetables, be generous with salt. Not only does it season the dish, but it also draws out the water from the eggplant and zucchini.
BASIL HANDLING 101
Basil is the fragrant hero in this recipe, and how you handle it matters. To preserve its essential oils and prevent flavor loss, avoid chopping it with a knife. Instead, break the leaves by hand just before adding them to the sauce. This ensures every
Rigatoni is kissed with the full, fresh aroma of basil.
PREVENTING VEGGIE STICKINESS
As the vegetables cook, it’s essential to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Regular stirring is key but remember the magic ingredient: water. Adding a splash here and there not only prevents sticking but also contributes to a rich, flavorful sauce. If you are struggling, turn down the heat.
PATIENCE IN SIMMERING
The slow simmering of the sauce is where the magic happens so be patient while the flavours intensify. A deliciously thick sauce is the goal, and it requires a gentle, steady simmer.
OPT FOR FRESH SEASONAL VEGETABLES
Opting for produce that’s locally sourced and in-season guarantees not only vibrant flavors but also ensures that you’re getting the maximum nutritional value from your ingredients. If you have vegetables in your own garden that differ from this recipe, use them – fresh and home-grown are always best.
TRY DIFFERENT VARIATIONS
Variety is the spice of life, and the same holds true for your vegetarian pasta sauce. Embrace a diverse range of vegetables to add layers of texture and depth to your dish. Think beyond the basics; bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms can introduce a symphony of flavors that keeps each bite appealing and satisfying.
How to serve Rigatoni all’ Ortolana?
When the pasta is full of vibrant colors, and the sauce coats the Rigatoni, it is ready to be served. Use a serving bowl to showcase the vegetarian pasta and top it generously with additional pecorino.
Rigatoni all’ Ortolana
- Large pan or pot
- Sharp knife
- wooden spoon
- Lid for the pot
- Mug for pasta water
- Serving Bowl
- 500 grams Rigatoni Pasta 18oz. or your favorite short pasta shape
- ½ Zucchini 150g
- ½ Eggplant 150g
- ½ Red bell pepper 150g
- ¼ Onion chopped
- 1 Small carrot chopped
- 1 Celery stick chopped
- 5-6 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil EVOO
- 1 Garlic clove
- 3 Cans blended peeled tomatoes.
- Pecorino cheese As much as preferred
- Basil As much as preferred
- Salt & pepper As much as required
- 1 tablespoon sea salt to boil pasta.
- Cut the zucchini, eggplant, and red bell pepper into cubes.
- Add 5 to 6 tablespoons of EVOO to the pan and toss in chopped onions, carrots, and celery to cook Sofrito. Let them cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they are nice and soft.
- Add a splash of water to prevent veggies from burning.
- Cover the pot and let it cook for 10 minutes on medium-high, stirring occasionally to ensure they are not burning.
- After seven minutes, change the heat to medium-low, add a splash of water, and add crushed garlic to the pot.
- Add capsicum, zucchini, and eggplant to the pot and gently stir everything.
- Add a generous amount of salt. Stir and add a splash of water. Stir it again and cover the pot with a lid.
- Let it cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on how hot your cooktop is.
- Make sure the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring, and add a little bit more water to prevent the ingredients from burning.
- When vegetables turn soft, slowly add the peeled tomato sauce, mix everything, and add salt and pepper. Cover the pot with a lid and let the sauce cook for 20-30 minutes on medium-low heat.
- While the sauce is simmering, boil the rigatoni pasta. Follow the instructions on the package to boil the pasta. It will take 30 minutes to cook.
- Turn off the flame when you get a nice thick sauce.
- Break the basil leaves, add them to the pasta sauce, and remove it from the stove.
- Meanwhile, drain the pasta. Keep a mug full of pasta water aside for later use.
- Add pasta to the sauce. Stir well to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add a generous amount of pecorino cheese and toss the pot to let the pasta and sauce meld together. Finish with more basil for extra flavor.
- Add vegetarian ragu to the serving bowl and top it with more pecorino. Serve and enjoy!
E ora si Mangia, Vincenzo’s Plate… Enjoy!
Here my suggestion for a whole Vegetarian Italian Menu:
- PICKLED GREEN TOMATOES Could be the Perfect way to start your Lunch/Dinner.
- MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA Would be perfect to serve next your Rigatoni All’Ortolana.
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