Spaghetti Bolognese is one of those family favourites, when the family gathers, kids run into the kitchen trying to help in cooking. Such occasions bring nice, warm feelings that we associate with the dish itself. For all those moms and dads concerned with how much plant food their kids take in and for all those vegetarian souls out there, here it comes – my vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese that is so freaking good that you will not notice the difference.
My inspiration for this recipe was my husband Scott. He used to eat traditional, pasta meals with meat, all sorts of burgers and whatnot. These are tasty, but while eating you have this fatty feeling in your mouth and the meal itself comes heavy on your stomach, which is not a pleasant feeling at all. Food is to be enjoyed not to create any discomfort and give your stomach some hard time to digest it. So, I came up with this vegetarian spaghetti Bolognese recipe that is so light that you and your kids will be able to eat and eat and eat and don’t feel sluggish at all.
The meal is really quick to prepare, it will take you like 15-20 minutes, and it’s also fun for kids to help you out. The ingredients you will need are very simple ones you can find in any store – carrots, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and tofu.
To speed up the whole process of preparing ingredients, your food processor is there to save you. Use it to chop all the ingredients and you are ready to start preparing your vegetarian Bolognese sauce.
So, you’ll start by heating a good splash of olive oil in a pan. I LOVE olive oil and it gives those recognizable Mediterranean aromas to the meals. When the oil is hot enough, you can add the onions and garlic, but the main thing to keep in mind here is not to brown the onions. Make sure that you cook this on medium-low heat, as you want your Bolognese sauce to be super creamy without any burnt onion bits. I also like sprinkling the onions with freshly ground black pepper and Himalayan salt to bring out the flavors. Now, since I mentioned seasoning, to get a nicely seasoned dish, you will need to do it in steps. So, we season at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.
As I said, you don’t want the onions to get browned, so once they are looking nice and sweaty, you can add the carrots and mushrooms and crumble in the tofu. You can allow kids to do it, they will love it. I’m not a big fan of tofu, I would almost always choose tempeh over tofu, but in this recipe, tofu goes really well. The tofu I used for this recipe is the soft one.
Preparing your vegetarian Bolognese sauce will not take you a lot of time, but you will need to keep an eye on it and don’t forget to shake the pan and stir so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed and cooked. After some minutes of cooking, you will see that it actually resembles minced meat, and kids will have no clue it is actually not! Give this sauce a lot of love, stir it frequently and break any lumps that tofu has created.
To give it more of those Mediterranean flavors, stir in some dried oregano. Fresh ones are good as well, just chop it nicely and add it to the pan together with the tomato puree and paste. Take your time to stir and combine the ingredients while it all simmers into this super creamy “fake” Bolognese sauce.
Some use wine in the traditional Bolognese sauce, but I like to avoid that and add some acidity by giving my sauce a few good splashes of balsamic vinegar. Then, to even this out, I pour in some maple syrup. You can feel free to experiment at this point and use honey, coconut sugar or any other sweetener you like or maybe even leave that out if you want your Bolognese sauce to have that tangy hint.
Since we are now in the middle of cooking, I will season with more salt and then tear some basil leaves and throw into the pan. If you notice some seed pods at the top of the basil stalks, don’t throw them away. Maybe you are not used to adding these in cooking, but trust me, they are full of flavors. Stir again to incorporate the basil into the sauce and allow to simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. The sauce you will get in the end will look the same as the old-fashioned Bolognese sauce. You will be amazed how creamy it is, it will not stick to the pan or anything. And the color, OMG, the color is so inviting.
As the sauce is done, taste and if you feel like it, give it one more pinch of salt. To finish off this epic vegetarian Bolognese sauce, give it a good splash of olive oil. This is a secret that one lovely Italian lady revealed to me.
Serve your Bolognese sauce with any gluten-free pasta you like. I love wheat pasta, I love the smell of it so my favourite ones are kamut and spelt pasta. These are types of wheat, and the good thing is that they are available in supermarkets, so you don’t have to search for it in health food stores.
Why I love this pasta so much? It is very light, it doesn’t make you feel anything heavy in your belly after eating it. You know that feeling when something is so delicious and you eat and eat and eat, but then at one point, you get this crash when you feel like regretting eating it. With kamut and spelt pasta, you will not feel like that. Try it out!
So, get your favorite type of pasta ready, serve it with your vegetarian Bolognese sauce, let everyone grab their share and enjoy your family time!
This is such an epic sauce that you can use when preparing lasagna as well together with a creamy vegan cheese, which is a divine combination. Your kids will not have a clue that this Bolognese sauce is without any meat. If you wish to add some more plant food into your kids’ diet, you can add some zucchini to the sauce as well. If this has intrigued you enough to search for more amazing plant-based meals, check out my cooking classes.
Try out the vegetarian Bolognese sauce and share some pictures.
Chef Cynthia Louise is an Internationally acclaimed MasterChef, speaker, author, restaurant consultant, teacher and television presenter in wholefood, dairy-free cooking.
She also has the worlds first online cooking classes focused on dairy-free plant-based whole foods with recipes that people are raving about and changing people's health, one delicious bite at a time.
Chef Cynthia loves nothing more than educating people about the simplicity and vitality of a plant-based, whole foods lifestyle. Each dish is like art on a plate and her flavour combinations nourish the soul and get everyone talking.