BLACK BEAN SPAGHETTI WITH VEGETARIAN RAGU

Today I found myself walking past Planet Organic trying to think of something I needed, to give myself an excuse to go inside. I do this a lot, and every time I go to a health food shop for one thing, I exit with at least 4, and sometimes this doesn’t even include the thing I went in for in the first place. They are dangerous places, even more so when you’re hungry, or, like I was today, feeling creative and easily inspired.

On my way to the till having picked up what I needed, I passed through the pasta isle. I used to eat pasta almost every day when I was at school. I would come home from school ravenous and make a bowl of pasta with cheesy baked beans. I know. Grim. But it tasted incredible. But since changing my diet, I haven’t had pasta once, and to be honest, my body doesn’t crave it. I admit my eyes do sometimes, as well as my nostrils. If i see a saucy pasta dish on a TV advert or walk past an Italian restaurant which smells as if it is actually built of basil and cheese, then I almost begin to miss it. However, in my opinion, it is always the sauce and the toppings that give a pasta dish any flavour at all. This is why I love making courgetti, because it is the same texture as regular spaghetti and doesn’t taste of much at all. The only difference is it isn’t doughy - other than that it tastes, in my opinion, just the same once it’s covered in sauce. The important thing is to keep the sauce relatively healthy too, monitoring your use of cream, cheese and processed meats. The recipe below is completely dairy free, vegan and vegetarian.

Like most things in the shops, ‘healthy’ pasta is likely to contain a lot of ingredients you don’t recognise and these are ultimately things your body wont recognise either. All sorts of flours, stabilisers and emulsifiers may be present, amongst other ingredients. Most of these products are also high in starchy carbohydrate and sugar, and really aren’t that good for you at all. I tried Quinoa Spaghetti about a year ago now and loved it, but it still filled me up a little too much and although it was gluten and grain free, still felt quite stodgy to digest. So when I walked past Black Bean Spaghetti today, I had to investigate the packaging further. There were two ingredients: Organic Black Beans (92%) and Water (8%). This sounded instantly better than what surrounded it on the shelf as it was made for completely natural ingredients. No flour, not additives. Just beans and water. I was completely sceptical about putting it in my basket but felt so inspired that I had to give it a go. The store was out of turkey mince and I knew I had a fresh cauliflower at home, so I enjoyed mine with Cauliflower Ragu. Such a winner.

INGREDIENTS
A Packet of Black Bean or Edamame Spaghetti (ExploreAsian), or Homemade Courgetti
6 Medium-Large Tomatoes
15 Small Tomatoes
Handful of Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Handfuls of Spinach Leaves (or kale), chopped
1 Large Garlic Clove, chopped or crushed
1-2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
A Few Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
1 Teaspoon Dried Mixed Herbs - Oregano, Sage and Thyme work well
1/2 Large Cauliflower (you can also use quinoa instead which makes a delicious high protein vegetarian ragu with the same texture and consistency)

METHOD
Start by making the sauce as the courgetti will only take a few minutes and the black bean pasta only needs about 6 minutes to simmer. Chop the tomatoes into small chunks and pour a teaspoon or so of olive or coconut oil into a saucepan. Once melted, add the tomatoes to the pan followed by the basil leaves and the garlic. Stir in the spinach or kale along with the nutritional yeast, salt, dried herbs and other seasoning you may like to use. Cook over a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes. 
Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower and make it into a rice consistency. Doing this will add texture to the sauce (as well as more vitamins and nutrients) and resembles the texture of mince meat very closely. Start by chopping the cauliflower edges into small pieces and place in a food processor or blender. Take the stalks and the tougher inside of the cauliflower and dice finely before adding to the blender. Blend for about 10-20 seconds. You only need to pulse it briefly as the pieces will break up instantly and you want to avoid making it into some kind of puree. 
Once the sauce is reducing and becoming thicker, add the cauliflower rice or ‘mince’ to the sauce pan and stir until evenly coated. Simmer for another 15 minutes in order for the cauliflower to become a tiny bit softer and also to absorb the flavours of the sauce.
Now make the ‘pasta’s’. Boil about 2 cups of water in a saucepan and then add the black bean spaghetti. I used about 1/5 or 1/4 of the packet for one serving. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, depending on how you prefer your pasta cooked. I like mine al dente so I drained mine after about 6 minutes. 
Take your spiralizer or julienne peeler and start making the courgetti. You don’t really need both - i basically bought a courgette in case i really didn’t like the black bean pasta. But i did, so in the end i used both which obviously increased the variety of nutrients. I used just under half a courgette, peeled into spaghetti with my julienne peeler. You can also use a whole courgette if you don’t have/want black bean spaghetti, or you can leave the courgetti out if you just want to use the black bean spaghetti.
Place the courgetti into a bowl and drain the black bean spaghetti. Add this to the courgetti and mix to combine with your hands. Give the sauce one last stir and season before pouring over the ‘pasta’s’. I recommend string the sauce through the pasta to coat it evenly. Top with a little nutritional yeast or organic cheese if you are not dairy intolerant, and add chopped pine nuts or seeds for extra flavour and texture and to further increase the nutrient content.