Vegetarian quenelles with tomato sauce
My new favourite french comfort food is/are the so called quenelles. It’s the french equivalent of german knödel or dumplings. You apparently have them in many shapes and tastes, but I mostly use the plain ones (vegetarian) with nothing special in them. You can find them with meat, fish, herbs, mushrooms or anything else in them though.
When we first arrived in France I was eager to try everything local and I bought these funny looking sausage-like quenelles to try out. This first try-out was during our move and somehow I didn’t take the time to investigate how one should prepare them properly, and so I miserably failed and concluded that I really didn’t like them. I found them to eggy.
A few months ago I decided to give them a second try. I bought the bio variety and did some research on how you should make them. I found out that you can prepare them in the oven and that they are often soaked in some kind of sauce or butter. I tried the butter variety which was ok, but then I decided to make a dish with my homemade tomato sauce and some mozzarella. This dish has become a real hit in our household. It’s the perfect kind of comfort food, as it is easy to make and incredibly tasty.
There are a few things though you should watch out for when you are preparing this dish. The choice of products is really crucial with this. This is my advice.
First the tomato sauce: we harvested tons of tomatoes last year and I decided to make small batches of tomato sauce and freeze it in for during winter. We are still eating from that harvest! I think we have eaten at least two portions a month the past few months. It’s so tasty, totally different than anything you can buy in the store. It has been great and I’m planning to do the same thing this year as well. For this recipe you will need some kind of home made tomato sauce. Ideally made from tasty summer tomatoes, but you can make a sauce from sloppy early spring ones too if you don’t have other options. You might think it’s a lot of work, but if you make it a few liters at a time, it’s really almost no work. I don’t peel the tomatoes, so it’s really an easy job.
And then the quenelles: I’ve tried making this dish a handful of times and one time I tried it out with cheaper quenelles, that I bought from Lidl for example. I thought the secret of this dish mostly lied in the sauce. I was wrong. The quality of the quenelles is also very important. So my advise would be: if you are buying them pre-made, go for a good quality product. Try out different ones from different brands. I now go for the bio-variety in the local Carrefour. This one fits our taste best. It has a nice firm texture and doesn’t taste as eggy. The cheaper ones fall apart easily and taste spongy and soft. Not so nice!
What about the mozzarella: well, if you eat mozzarella fresh I think the quality is really important. But since this dish is baked, I think you can easily go for a cheaper option. I use the same rule with feta cheese for example. Eating feta fresh on a loaf of bread requires good quality feta. But if you eat it in a spinach cake or something, you can use a cheaper option. That’s my humble opinion on this subject.
Ingredients for 2 people with an appetite:
– quenelles (a package of 4)
– home made tomato sauce (400-500 gr)
– one mozzarella package
– a tea spoon of baking oil
How to make it:
Place the tomato sauce in a big oven dish which is slightly oiled. Cut the quenelles in two length wise and place them in the sauce. Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and place it in between the quenelles. Now place the whole dish on 200 degrees (C) in the pre-heated oven for about 20-30 minutes. It will be finished when the quenelles show a crispy top.
You can serve it with a fresh raw salad. It’s dead easy and I haven’t found a person yet that doesn’t go for a second round with these guys.