When we go on our annual ski trip, my family always stays in and cooks for two of the nights. Every year, we make the same two meals; it’s tradition. One of those meals is spaghetti and meatball night because who doesn’t love some good comfort food after a long day on the slopes?
Well, we hit a snag when my sister in law joined the fam because she doesn’t eat red meat. What was our carnivorous family to do?! The solution was to make one giant pot of noodles and two separate pans of sauce: one had the meatballs and the other was a vegetarian version with eggplant. When my Mom ended up gravitating towards the veggie version, I figured there was something there. I decided to combine the two sauces to make one super sauce.
Start by browning a pound of ground beef or turkey (I went with turkey this time) with garlic, onion powder, oregano, and a good bit of red pepper flakes. Once it’s almost browned, add eggplant that’s been peeled and cubed (one medium sized eggplant is perfect). After that cooks down for a minute, add halved or quartered button mushrooms. The veggies should still be in large chunks because they’re supposed to be meat-like, vs. the turkey, which should sort of be incorporated throughout. I know portabello mushrooms are “meatier”, but I like using button mushrooms so the flavor doesn’t compete with the eggplant. Pour in the jarred marinara of your choice and let the whole thing simmer for 10-15 minutes.
I served the sauce over whole wheat spaghetti (surprisingly good), topped with fresh parm, and alongside some garlic cheesy bread. Here’s what I learned: these veggies make for an extra hearty sauce while still keeping the ragu feel. Also, be generous with those red pepper flakes – I loved the kick they lended the sauce.