Oh January... and the deep, cold, dark, wet feels you bring. After all the festivities and socialising at the end of year, January both feels like relief but also maybe a bit of an anticlimax and it can be difficult to get back into gear. However it feels for you, this hearty, delicious ragu will make January a little more warm and wholesome.
Feel free to make this ragu as chunky or as fine as you prefer by chopping the veggies into larger or smaller pieces. Chunky can be nice, especially in winter, but it's all up to you.
Tip: double up the portion and freeze the leftovers, it's the best kinda thing to have in the freezer for a busy or lazy day.
Feel free to add other seasonal vegetables to this, if you have them at hand, like fennel, peppers, courgette, aubergine (summer veggies). You could also use beef instead of the lentils, but give this vegetarian version a go. Make it your own.
Let's get cooking!
Heat oven to 200.
Combine the mushrooms with a little olive oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce and a crushed garlic clove. Spread the mushrooms out on a baking tray lined with baking paper or a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Check on them regularly so they don’t burn. It’s ok if they start to go a little golden/browned, it will give them a nice, nutty taste. Make your soffritto (onion, carrot, celery, garlic in olive oil in a pan), add the mushrooms, the herbs. At medium heat, pour in the glass of red wine and let it reduce for a few minutes. Then add the tomato, the stock or water, lentils, bayleaf, kelp (if using), salt and pepper. It has to be fairly liquid as the lentils will need it to cook. Let it simmer away gently for 1-2 hours so that it becomes rich, hearty and irresistible.
Check on it and give it a stir every now and then. And taste along the way. It may need a little sweetness, salt, acidity or any spice you might like. If it's too liquid, put the lid on a tilt and let it evaporate for as long as needed. I also sometimes like to give it a little blitz with the hand mixer to make it more"creamy" - don't overdo though as it will turn into mush, you'll want to still keep the textures of the vegetables.
You can also make this dish a day before eating it. It’s usually even better the next day.
When ready, if the kelp hasn’t already disintegrated, remove it, chop it in very small bits and return it to the ragu.
Boil the pasta as per instructions on the packet.
Add a little spaghetti or pasta to each bowl and top with the beautiful ragu. Optional to add a little parmesan. I like to eat this with a nice glass of bold red wine.
Let me know in the comment section below if you make this ragu or if you have other tips or secret ingredients you use.