A few years ago I stopped eating meat (aside from a little fish), but one of the few (and only) dishes I miss, is bolognese. I use to make it all the time. At one point, when I sprained my ankle on a study abroad trip, I lived on bolognese for 3 days – breakfast, lunch and dinner. I grew up eating it and it’s proper comfort food for me.
Enter VEGETARIAN bolognese. Yes that’s right – vegos, vegans and pescatarians alike can continue to enjoy spaghetti bolognese!! Now this won’t be news to many, but it was pretty exciting for me when I discovered it last year.
I knew there would be loads of recipes out there for this, so I’ve done quite a bit of research and experimenting to perfect it. The original inspiration came from Pass The Plant’s recipe. One thing you will need is a food processor to pulse all the vegetables into a mince like texture. if you don’t already own a food processor – I would seriously recommend investing in one. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive but they are so useful!
This recipe is actually vegan, assuming you don’t put the pecorino on top at the end! If you aren’t a vegan, nutritional yeast may not be something you’ve come across before. What is it? It’s the deactivated (non-living) form of a strain of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species as baker’s and brewer’s yeast.
Nutritional yeast is high in B vitamins like thiamine, folate, B6 and niacin – so lots of good stuff in there! It adds a savoury or umami flavour to food and is used loads in vegan cooking. It’s pretty widely available now, but you will always find it in health food stores.I really recommend seeking it out for this, it really adds a depth of flavour that’s tricky to imitate with other ingredients.
Lentils / cauliflower are optional I suppose but I do think they both add something. If you pulse too much cauliflower – just freeze it for later of make it cauliflower rice. Another tip, if you cook the lentils too long, you will lose their texture. Walnuts and pecans are interchangeable, but again are quite important texturally and for the savoury flavour. Do pulse the vegetables in batches – I’ve tried putting them all in the food processor at once and some bits start to turn into veggie puree.
Here is the recipe for the homemade pasta dough if you’re feeling so inclined.
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
- 1/4 head of cauliflower
- 1 large brown onion (peeled)
- 3 carrots
- 2 large handfuls of brown and/or crimini mushrooms
- 4 garlic cloves (peeled)
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
- 400 ml passata / tomato pasta sauce
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can of lentils
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- Salt & pepper
- Chopped parsley
- Grated pecorino
Drain the sundried tomatoes and soak them in warm water while you prep the veggies.
Wash all your veggies. Roughly chop the cauliflower and onion. In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower, onion, carrots, mushrooms and garlic in batches until they are all shredded into fine pieces. Do it in batches so you don't turn it into mush!
Add the shredded vegetables to a large, deep nonstick pot or pan and cook with some olive oil on medium-high heat. Cook the vegetables until they reduce in volume and the water is mostly cooked out.
Pulse the walnuts/pecans into a coarse meal using the food processor again. Add these to the pot along with the dried herbs, and nutritional yeast.
Drain the sundried tomatoes from the soaking liquid and add to the food processor along with 1 can of chopped tomatoes. Puree until smooth, then add to the pan along with the second can of tomatoes, the passata and red wine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to low, stirring occasionally. Cook for around 30 minutes.
Add the canned lentils and cook for a further 10 minutes. Check the seasoning adding the maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste. You can add more nutritional yeast here if you think it needs more savoury punch.
Serve with pasta, topped with fresh parsley and grated pecorino.