Sometimes we call it a Tofu Bolognese because we achieved our desired consistency by playing with different proportions of crumbly extra-firm tofu for texture and walnuts for richness while adding healthy fats.
We ultimately chose walnuts as, amongst nuts, they have a more prominent content of fat, which helps deliver the expected creaminess of a rich and fatty meat Bolognese, which usually comes from fatty meat cuts.
Walnuts are great for providing creamy textures in their raw state. For instance, you can simply blend them with basil or arugula, add some extra common ingredients, and you are off to get a creamy, flavourful, and preservatives-free pesto.
On top of all the amazing flavor, this sauce is very nutritious, as it is high in protein, provided by the tofu, and it is also rich in vitamins and minerals provided by veggies like carrots, and healthy celery.
- Raw Walnuts
- Extra Firm tofu
- Tomato puree (Italian passata)
- Basil leaves
Optional: red wine and/or tomato paste to make it richer.
See quantities and full instructions in the recipe card.
Making this vegan bolognese sauce is very straightforward, everything goes into one pot.
Crumble the extra-firm tofu with your hands and reserve.
Clean and chop your veggies. Dice the onion, shred the carrot, mince the garlic, and finely chop the celery.
Blend the walnuts on a food processor, but not too much. We don’t want it to become a paste.
Cook. In a medium-large saucepan add the oil. Set to medium heat and then add the garlic, followed by the onion. Stir until golden brown, and the onion looks translucent. Add this point, add the celery, followed by walnuts, stir fry for a minute, and add the crumbled tofu.
Add wine. This is optional, but we think it adds depth to the flavor and makes the sauce color a deeper red because the tofu better absorbs wine’s color compared to that of the tomato’s puree. When you add the wine, you will notice that whatever might be sticking to the bottom of the saucepan will separate and become part of the sauce.
This adds a lot of flavor, and it is called the Maillard reaction. This effect reduces the sugars present in the onion.
You can choose to use tomato paste (extract) in replacement or in addition to the wine, for a thicker and more red sauce.
Add the Carrot. It should be shredded.
Stir in the tomato sauce and basil. Now lower the heat to medium-low. Keep stirring occasionally, preventing any sticking at the bottom of the saucepan. Let the sauce cook for 30 minutes, or until the desired consistency and flavor are achieved.
Keep an eye; you might want to add ½ cup of water if the sauce is too thick and the flavors are still not optional. Meaning, more cooking is needed.
Final seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.
What pasta to use
You can use this veggie filling for Spaghetti, Tagliatelle, Pappardelle, or even as stuffing your Ravioli.
Time: If you are using your veggie Bolognese sauce for dry pasta after 15 minutes have elapsed since you have added all the ingredients to the sauce, set the water to boil, add salt, and then add the pasta.
In total, you need 5 minutes for your water to come to boil and roughly 10 minutes for your dry pasta to be ready (read the instructions on the package). Remember to add a tablespoon of salt to your boiling water.
Hint: As Italians say, if you don’t add the proper amount of salt to the boiling water, your pasta will never be well-salted.
Fresh pasta typically needs from 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time, no more! That way, your pasta will be “al-dente.”
Pasta recommendation: although it is common to eat Spaghetti Alla Bolognese, if you want to be closer to the real Bolognese, as they eat it here in Italy, more specifically, in Bologna, choose Tagliatelle (which means cut pasta, Tagliare (verb) = to cut).
Tagliatelle, are like ribbons, they have a wider cut than the spaghetti but narrower than the Pappardelle. This allows for more sauce to stick into a wider surface of your pasta, allowing you to have a more flavorful bite.
If you can get it fresh, even better. Stay tuned, we will soon be making a post about how to make easy Vegan Tagliatelle at home from scratch. It takes minutes.
You can adjust the thickness of the vegetarian Bolognese sauce for any recipe, by simply adding ½ cup of water at a time while cooking. Then wait until the heat evaporates as much water as you want until you reach the desired consistency.
How do you add flavor to bolognese?
If you want to add some extra flavor, here are some suggestions.
You can add an organic vegetable broth cube, you can also try some marjoram or oregano, garlic powder, basil.
One that you would not think of, but can add a very interesting note is a secret ingredient and it will make your vegan bolognese taste as it came straight from "la cucina della Nonna": Nutmeg.
Just a pinch, but it will give your bolognese that special aromatic note.
How to serve it
Normally you just put it on top of your pasta, and optionally add some olive oil and parmesan. We love topping it with our Homemade Vegan Parmesan cheese with a base of walnuts, or the one with a base of sunflower seeds, which makes it cheaper.
You can also mix it before serving if you want to make things easier in a family setting.
Nuts - if you have a nut allergy, you can substitute the walnuts for the same weight as extra-firm tofu.
This Veggie Bolognese freezes and thaws very well. In fact, we love making it in large quantities because we use it for many other recipes.
Simply, store the sauce in an air-tight container and keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw, leave it in the refrigerator the night before using it. You will notice that after thawing, there will be liquid at the bottom, don't worry, it will be incorporated back to the sauce as you reheat it.
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Recipe: Vegetable Bolognese
- ⅓ cup red wine
- 2 oz tomato paste optional
- Crumble the extra firm tofu with your hands and reserve.14 oz firm tofu
- Clean your veggies. Wash your veggies throughly under running water.1 celery sticks celery, 1 carrot, 1 chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves
- Chop your veggies. Dice the onion, shred the carrot, mince the garlic, and finely chop the celery.
- Blend the walnuts on a food processor, but not too much. We don’t want it to become a paste. Alternatively you can finely chop them on a cutting board.10 oz crushed walnuts
- Cook. In a medium-large saucepan add the oil and then set it to a medium-high heat and add the garlic, followed by the onion. Stir until golden, and the onion looks translucent. Add this point, add te celery.2 garlic cloves, 1 celery sticks celery, 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Incorporate walnuts and tofu. Continue with the blended walnuts, stir fry for a minute, and add the tofu.10 oz crushed walnuts, 14 oz firm tofu
- Add wine. This is optional, but we think it adds depth to the flavor and makes the sauce color a deeper red, as the tofu better absorbs wine’s color than tomato’s puree does. When you add the wine, you will notice that whatever might be sticking to the bottom of the saucepan un-sticks and becomes part of the sauce.⅓ cup red wine
- Add the Carrot. Shredded.1 carrot
- Add the tomato sauce and basil. Now lower the heat to medium-low. Keep stirring now and then. Let it cook for 30 minutes. Add tomato paste, for a richer sauce, as substitution or in addition to wine.9 oz tomato puree, 2 oz tomato paste, 1 oz fresh basil leaves
- Keep an eye; you might want to add ½ cup of water if too thick.
- Final seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste.Salt and black pepper to taste
- If you are using your veggie Bolognese for pasta, after fifteen minutes from the moment you have added all the ingredients to the sauce, set the water to boil, add a tablespoon of salt and add the pasta. In total, you need 5 minutes for your water to come to boil and roughly 10 minutes for your dry pasta to be ready (read the instructions on the package). Remember to add a tablespoon of salt to your boiling water.
- Fresh pasta typically needs from 3 to 5 minutes of cooking time, no more! That way, your pasta will be “al-dente.”
You can adjust the thickness of the vegetarian Bolognese sauce for the recipe you are using, simply adding ½ cup of water at a time while cooking and wait until the heat evaporates as much water as you want.
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We sometimes take for granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
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