Aug 19 2008

Crock Pot Super Easy Vegan Spaghetti For Bloggers and Others

 So, you’re a blogger. Or you work at home in some other way. Does that mean you have to eat the traditional nerd’s meal of caffeine and whatever munchy food is close by? Hardly.
There’s nothing more reassuring on a busy day than knowing that a good dinner is cooking itself while you’re busy with other things. Crock pots, or slow cookers, make this possible.
There are lots of recipes for them, but I started doing this lately and it worked beautifully. From now on, this is the way i’m cooking spaghetti. Well, unless Mario Batali or Martha Stewart is coming for dinner. Heck, even if they are. This is my new favorite spaghetti.
This makes an easy, filling meal with almost no effort. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of it is seasoning. The dish comes together very quickly. You DO have to be home to stir it, but that’s the only requirement. You can set it up in the early afternoon and have it for dinner.
Add salad and garlic bread and you’re ready to feed the neighborhood. You can also combine all the ingredients (except the pasta) in a freezer bag and thaw it when you’re ready to cook. When I do that I can have it set up and cooking in five minutes. That means when I start chopping, I always chop and maybe saute twice or three times the amount of vegetables so I can have them on hand.

 1 1/2 pounds of good dried spaghetti noodles (100% semolina)
Veggie substitute for 1 1/2 pounds of hamburger(optional)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 extra large jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite)
2 cups water
Vegan parmesan-like topping
Dice, slice or chop all ingredients in whatever way appeals to you. Buy them diced or sliced if you can. Make it easy on yourself. Heat a large saute pan on medium heat. Add olive oil. Add fennel, black pepper, garlic powder, celery and onion. Saute until onion is softened and fennel is aromatic.
You’ll need a five-quart or larger crock pot. Break spaghetti in half, unless it will fit in your cooker whole. Put half the jar of spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, then add the other ingredients. Top with the rest of the sauce. Stir ingredients gently to mix.
Add water to spaghetti sauce jar, then shake to remove the last of the sauce. Pour into crock pot. Turn crock pot to high and cover. Stir every hour, making a point to keep the noodles from sticking to each other. Serve when hot and thoroughly cooked, approximately 4 to 6 hours.

You can also use canned tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste to replace the jarred sauce. In that case, double the seasonings (well, don’t double the fennel), and you’ll probably want to add some salt, although I don’t. You can substitute other veggies if you don’t like the ones I’ve named. Corn would add to the protein, but then it wouldn’t be as pseudo-Italian. And that one I probably wouldn’t serve to Mario or Martha. Well, I might, I just wouldn’t call it Spaghetti. Actually, you could use whatever noodle shape you want and call it anything you like.
That’s it, next time I’m using rotini and I’m adding corn. I love corn. Diced red and green bell peppers would be good, too. In fact maybe I’ll use the frozen corn that already has peppers in it. See? You can vary this infinitely according to what you like and have on hand. It can’t help but be delicious.
If you must, you can use browned hamburger instead of meat substitute, but then it won’t be vegetarian. You can also use genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano, Peccorino Romano, Asiago, or any other cheese to top the dish, but then, of course, it won’t be vegan.

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