By: Kelly D’Amico
Meat sauce appears in many beloved dishes that often serve as comfort food staples ranging from pasta to lasagna. Unfortunately, those aren’t always the healthiest, although they are very hearty! We’ve created a vegan bolognese with mushrooms and cauliflower for a nutritious spin to meat alternatives. You won’t get this kind of dish at your local Italian restaurant, so try it out yourself!
This vegan mushroom bolognese is loaded with vegetables, nutrition and flavor to bring a satisfying meal for the whole family. Along with being high in plant based protein, this meal is also dairy free, and can be made with gluten-free pasta. You can jump to the recipe card below, but don’t forget to read about selecting key ingredients and your sustainability impact with climate friendly, plant-based twist. This delicious recipe is great to try on a meatless Monday or just for a healthy meal. If you want to save time, make a big batch pasta sauce ahead of time for a quick weeknight meal.
What’s in the Vegan Bolognese Recipe?
Bolognese sauce typically includes different types of fatty ground meat like ground beef or ground porrk. To mimic the texture of meat, we’ve used a few different ingredients recommended by my colleague Chef Connor Thompson. This recipe is for a vegan spaghetti bolognese, but it can be used in many dishes like lasagna, baked ziti, or just over pasta.
While still a relatively new product, cauliflower rice is just cauliflower that’s been cut up small into the shape of rice. You can purchase them already cut either fresh or frozen, or you can cut it up yourself with a box grater or the shredding attachment to your food processor. It’s a great way to incorporate more vegetables into meals.
Baby Bella Mushrooms
Baby Bellas are tiny portobello mushrooms that haven’t reached full maturity. They are full of earthy flavor and protein. Mushrooms are great ways to incorporate protein, iron, and fiber into your diet. If you want a really meaty texture, you can use a variety of mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms, porcini mushrooms, and white button mushrooms.
Crushed tomatoes are great to use all year round. They are different from tomato puree as they still have their pulpy texture. I highly recommend using canned tomato products during the tomato off-season as they will maintain their flavor and freshness. Plus, winter tomatoes are rarely of good quality unless you live in an area where they can grow all year round.
Tomato paste is essentially a concentrated form of tomato. It has been reduced to a thick texture, hence the name paste. It’s loaded with flavor and enhances the quality of the sauce. It can be purchased in cans or tubes.
Sustainability & Nutrition Info
As mentioned earlier, most meat sauces use some form of ground meat, typically lamb or beef. However, both of these are large contributors to carbon emissions. This is a common measure to compare the environmental impact based on different types of emissions. By using vegetables and fungi, we are drastically reducing the CO2E impact from this dish and the resources needed to produce it.
In addition, cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family and is full of fiber and antioxidants which are an essential part of a heart-healthy diet. It is lower in carbohydrates, which means that this sauce can be part of a balanced meal when eaten with pasta.
The mushrooms in this dish are an excellent fungi source of vitamin D, and also contain beta-glucans, which are a very important soluble fiber that helps in reducing cholesterol and other heart-related diseases. We use mushrooms in many of our dishes, so be sure to check them out here.
Tomatoes are also an important source of Vitamin C, as well as many other antioxidants. While they are fruit, tomatoes are still relatively low in sugar and have a very low glycemic index.
Most importantly, this meal provides excellent nutrition with its high source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Best of all, it tastes delicious too.
Tips for Making a Savory Sauce
The traditional bolognese sauce starts with cooking the ground meat as a way to include the fat into the tomato sauce. When it’s mixed with aromatics, This technique provides rich flavor in the sauce.
A great idea for a more complex sauce is to add bay leaves while tomato sauce simmers, but make sure you remove them before you serve it. Fresh herbs and a generous pinch of salt goes a long way in creating rich flavors. If you prefer a spicy sauce, you can add red pepper flakes.
For an extra umami flavor, you can add 1 tbsp of soy sauce to the vegan bolognese sauce which will add a ton of flavor. If you decide to make it ahead of time, make sure you store the sauce in an airtight container.
Vegan Bolognese with Mushrooms and Cauliflower Recipe
- Preparation Time
- Cooking Time
Vegan Bolognese with Mushrooms
- 1 cauliflower riced
- 1 Qt shiitake mushrooms
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1 onion minced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup vegetable stock or water
- 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning to taste
- Fresh Basil
- 1 box cooked pasta spaghetti
- Gather and prepare all of your ingredients.
- Start by heating olive oil in a sauce pot. We used a dutch oven to retain the heat
- Add your onions and let them begin to cook
- Add Tomato paste and let cook for a minute
- Then add vegetable stock to deglaze the pan from the tomato sauce and onions. The mixture should be loose and fragrant
- Add your mushrooms and garlic together and cook for about 2 minutes
- Then add the cauliflower rice
- Season with dried Italian seasoning
- Let simmer for about 30 minutes
- Add cooked pasta and mix in together
- Garnish with Fresh basil and enjoy!
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