Cheesy Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce
Submitted by Lance "CreakyKnees" Delo Seattle, WA
- 1 – 3 Jars or large cans of Marinara Sauce. I like Classico® Four Cheese Sauce.
- 1 – 3 Cups Grated Cheese. I like the Kraft® four-cheese Mexican blend.
- 1 Pkg. Gimme® Lean vegetarian breakfast sausage substitute, fried up with a little olive oil, ground fennel seeds, black pepper, and other spices to taste.
- ½ – 1 Cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) combined with a tablespoon or two of low-sodium soy sauce, vegetarian bouillon, a splash of Kitchen Boutique®, other spices as strikes ones' fancy, a little more than an equal volume of water, nuked for 3 – 4 minutes, and then fluffed with a fork.
- 1 Pkg. vegetarian ground beef substitute, fried up with 1 - 2 green bell peppers and one yellow or white onion cut into ½ inch pieces; and ½ – 1 lbs crimini or button mushrooms, rinsed, cut in half, then sliced about ⅛ inch thin.
Add the jars of sauce to a suitably large stock pot. Heat the sauce slowly at low to medium heat as you add the ingredients and spices; then simmer while seasoning/tweaking to taste for 45 minutes or so. Stir frequently to avoid scorching.
For seasonings, I like to gradually add some or all of the following in small quantities to taste: liquid smoke, chipotle tobasco, a pinch of cayenne to brighten flavors, fresh ground black pepper, and traditional spaghetti sauce spices.
Line the dehydrator trays with non-stick sheets or parchment paper. Spread the sauce on the covered trays roughly ¼ inch deep, a little less if the dehydrator is not good at dehydrating leathers. If the dehydrator has heat settings, set it for 125° - 135° F, otherwise set it for leathers. Place the trays in the dehydrator and dehydrate until dry, rotating trays if/as necessary.
Many only dry to the leather stage; however I find that starting with Classico® Four Cheese Sauce I can take it to a drier stage, to the point where the leather shrinks and separates into pieces and the edges start to curl. I find it typically takes 10 - 12 hours with my Excalibur Dehydrator.
Remove the dried sauce and pulse it in a food processor to break it up further until the bulk of it is between a powder and small beans in size, to aid in rehydration. Having some larger chunks does not appear to be an issue.
Combine two ounces of dehydrated sauce with two ounces of angel hair pasta, broken into convenient lengths, in freezer bags to form individual servings. Place individual servings/bags in a larger Ziploc® bag. Store the bag in a freezer for 1 – 2 months.
A note about shelf life: I have found that the finished product will keep 1 – 2 months in the freezer, with noticeable loss/change of flavor towards the end. Unrefrigerated, the consensus is that DIY dehydrated spaghetti sauce containing cheese will last about a week. I have exceeded those suggested limits by quite a bit with no apparent ill effect except a loss of flavor. However, just to be safe, store the sauce in the freezer until ready to use and then consume within one week on the trail.
When prepared as described I have depended on this sauce, across several batches, for two summers of weekend warrior stuff, one five day trip, and have provided it to a family of six I backpacked with. They love it, even though they are omnivores.
On the Trail:
Through careful measuring of weight before and after dehydration and experimentation during rehydration, I determined that two ounces of dehydrated sauce and two ounces of angel hair pasta require 1½ cups water to rehydrate to a nice consistency and mouth feel.
For most people, 1 – 2 servings, each serving being two ounces of dehydrated sauce and two ounces of angel hair pasta, are adequate, but some experimentation is suggested. To prepare servings at camp, I use the freezer bag method. Simply measure the appropriate amount of water, 1½ cups water per four ounce serving, bring the water to a boil and add it to the serving bowl or freezer bag. Stir well, cover, insulate in a cozy or clothing, then let stand for 5 – 10 minutes.
Additional Comments or Suggestions:
I suggest that a batch be produced, dehydrated, rehydrated, and then sampled in the comfort of one’s domicile before committing to carrying and consuming it in the backcountry.
Chef Glenn's Comments:
As CreakyKnees describes above, cheesy tomato sauce will dehydrate to more of a crumbly state than tomato sauce without cheese which will dry to leather. That’s because of the increased fat which does not dry well. Cheesy sauce will keep in the freezer, but use it within a week on the trail. For backpacking trips longer than one week, try drying marinara sauce that does not contain cheese.
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