Vegan Bolognese Sauce




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This scrumptuous sauce is a vegan take on the classic bolognese recipe.   I dare you to try it and not fall in love with its hearty, smokey flavor!  The addition of smoked tempeh replaces the texture of hamburger and the flavor of the pancetta or bacon, while roasted eggplant adds a deep richness.

Bolognese sauce is traditionally a meat- and pork- based sauce.  I had a desire to lighten up this dish by making it all vegetarian.  In fact, it's easy enough to make vegan - thereby creating  delicious, stick-to-your-ribs sauce that is actually good for you!

Let's compare amounts per serving*:

Traditional Bolognese:     472 calories            19.7 grams of fat
Vegan Bolognese:             158 calories              7.8 grams of fat

Only two tablespoons of oil are added to a medley of fresh herbs, vegetables, and tempeh (opt).  Allowing this ragu to simmer for two hours creates deeply complex and robust flavor.

For a gluten-free option, omit the tempeh and use wheat free pasta!

* according to
recipe calculator

Step 1: Ingredients

This is a very flexible recipe.  I chose roasted eggplant and smoked tempeh to create a hearty, smokey center for the sauce.    You could use fresh eggplant that has been sliced, salted, and allowed to drain.  You could use smoked or baked tofu.  You could use any sort of "meat substitute" you so desire, or just load up on veg.

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 package smoked tempeh or tofu (opt.) chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 pound eggplant roasted or salted and drained, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup stewed tomatoes (can substitute for canned)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • few shavings of fresh nutmeg (opt)

Step 2: Prep Ingredients

Chop up your ingredients so they're all ready to go in.

Plan on an hour to prepare your eggplant, whether you roast it or not.  I prefer the rich, smokey flavor of roasted eggplant.  To achieve this, I split the eggplant in half, scored down the middle of the flesh on each half, and roasted on an oiled baking sheet, flesh side down, for 20 minutes at 400F (200C).

Step 3: Sautee Veg

Saute onions, garlic, carrot, and celery in oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, until softened - 5 to 7 minutes.

Step 4: Add Tempeh

Add smoked tempeh and cook over medium high heat, stirring for about 6 minutes.  If you've chosen not to roast your eggplant, add it along with the tempeh.

Step 5: Add Wine

Stir in wine and allow to simmer until the liquid evaporates.

Step 6: Add Remaining Ingredients

Stir in eggplant (if you haven't yet), tomatoes, tomato paste, water, fresh thyme and a shaving of nutmeg, and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Step 7: Add Pasta

Cook up your pasta to just before al dente.

Stir it into the sauce and simmer to finish cooking.

This is one of those dishes that's even better the second day!

What's great is that you can make up a huge batch and freeze it for a month (without the added pasta). 

Finally, you can "eat spaghetti bolognese without feeling bad about it for days and days and days. . . "
(admittedly the inspiration to this recipe)

Now go tell Lily Allen!



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    16 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    In the picture of your ingredients, I see a bottle of "smoke" by Wright's. Where in the recipe is this added?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I just followed this recipe to a "T" - roasted my eggplant, added ingredients like clockwork, used the smoked tempeh, etc. - and it turned out AMAZING. This is probably the first thing I've actually cooked myself ever, other than brown rice or steak on a grill (back when i ate meat).
    My only comment would be to include half a package of whole wheat organic spaghetti as opposed to the full package that i used... i didn't see any mention of how much pasta to mix in in the recipe, so i added a full package, which is still delicious, but i wish my batch was a lot more sauce-heavy because the bolognese tastes incredible.
    Anyway, I'm very new to veganism and this recipe is EXTREMELY ENCOURAGING to me. Rich in flavor, filling, and nutritious. Thank you scoochmaroo.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    So, do you only need 2 tbsp of EVOO? or 2tbsp + 1 cup?

    also, sorry if this has been answered, but how many cups is in a serving? to make 158 calories?
    thanks! :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, this sounds delicious. I made something similar years ago at uni for a vegitarian flatmate, he threw up an promptly busted me for using "real meat". I showed him the packets and he still wasn't convinced... Flattering in a really gross way. All the non vegetarians loved it too.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    No getting all food network kitchen/prepared foods on us :P You're making us look bad!

    Cardinal Fang

    9 years ago on Step 1

    How optional are the eggplant?

    I have an allergy to them and they kinda wind me up in hospital if I eat them...


    9 years ago on Introduction

    That DOES look good.   And the  7.8 grams of fat is mostly unsaturated fat that is actually also good for you (if you don't eat everything at one sitting) :-) 

    Question:   so, you are saying then that one only needs about 2 tablespoons of the sauce "per serving"?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, it does.   Enough for 8 meals, the way my wife eats, or at least 3-4 if it is only me Thanks.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    why do you say omit tempeh to make it gluten free? does tempeh usually have gluten? the kind i buy says it is gluten free.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Ah! My tempeh had gluten in it.  I'll have to search for gluten-free, but I'm such a fan of the Smoked tempeh.


    9 years ago on Step 1

    We like to use lentils (high in protiends) as a meat substitute. It is more italian than tofu anyway.

    2 replies