Vegertarian Pasta Dish served with Meat Sauce Side
I made some delicous spinach manicotti the other night but topped it prior to baking with some leftover mushroom meat sauce - this cooked up very tasty- however, I am looking to serve a lot of people -12- a vegetarian pasta dish that would take well to a meat sauce that would not be baked into the dish but could be served up like a gravy for those who want meat. Anyone got a good recipe or suggestion.
How "vegetarian" does it have to be. Would your guests be OK with butter and/or cheese?
If so, toss your cooked spaghetti (or other pasta) in a pan with browned butter and serve it topped with shredded mizithra cheese. Those who want meat sauce can spoon it over that assemblage and everyone will have something quite tastey to enjoy.
The problem with that approach is that once coated with brown butter, meat sauce will slide right off the pasta.
Cocoagirl has a bit of a challenge. Typically, pastas fall into 2 general categories. The fresh stuff (or some very high quality dried) which stands on it's own. In other words, the dish is about the pasta itself, not the sauce. In those cases, very simple "sauces" do the job, like a brown butter and a bit of high quality cheese. But for this to work well, the pasta itself has to be high quality.
The other category is where the pasta is more of a vehicle for a sauce. Here, pasta quality doesn't matter as much, since the flavors of the sauce are going to dominate. For example, I'd never server a homemade pasta with a meatsauce, because the subtle texture and flavor or a homemade pasta would be drowned out by something heavy like a meat sauce.
The real challenge is that a sauce - regardless of whether is brown butter and sage, olive oil and garlic, or a bolognese - sticks best to pasta when the pasta are lightly drained, and some of the cooking water - that has a bunch of starch in it - is added to the sauce before it's mixed with the pasta - even if just a little of the sauce is initially mixed with the pasta, and the rest served on the side for guests to add more if they wish. The addition of the starchy water acts like a binder. That way, the sauce is less likely to slip off the pasta. Also, saucing the pasta immediately prevents the drying pasta (once its drained) from sticking together and forming a clumpy mess, which can happen very quickly with pasta when a drained pasta is returned to a pan or bowl, naked.
So first mixing the pasta with a brown butter will cause the meat sauce to slip right off the pasta, leaving guests that go with the meat sauce with a bowl of very lightly sauced pasta, and a ton of meat sauce at the bottom of the bowl.
What you need to do is find a way of creating an initial sauce that can go either vegetarian or carnivore, mixing that with the pasta along with some of the starchy water. That way, you have a sauced pasta that: 1) can serve as a base for either camp, 2) is sauced immediately, which eliminates the clumping issue, and 3) because its sauced with the addition of starchy water, it'll help cling whatever final sauce your guests choose.
Perhaps the best way to go (though I realize it's a bit more work for you, but the leftover sauces will freeze very nicely) is to make:
1) a base sauce that will the be "initial" sauce. A basic tomato sauce, you can even just buy a can of this, as long as its good quality. You'll only need a 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup of this, along with starchy water, to form a good base coat.
2) Your meat sauce
3) A vegetable sauce with a tomato sauce base. Even something like a chunky ratatouille. Or grilled egglplant and zucchini. Or a peppers and onions. Or a big pan of sauteed wild mushrooms. Anything that's essentially a bunch of vegetables that go well with tomatoes. Prepare whatever veggies you want in whatever way you want, and add some basic tomato sauce.
Voila - two sauces, both equally yummy, that will cling to the pasta. Whatever route you choose, just make sure that you "ready" your pasta well for whatever sauce you'll be putting on it several minutes after the pasta is done cooking. And that means: no oil or butter, but adding something to prevent it from all sticking together, and making use of the cooking water.