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This Vegan Bolognese Is the Best Possible Alternative for Actual Meat Sauce

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Photo: Danny Kim

Mushrooms aren't the only meat crumble alternative worth your time. (See: Mushroom Vegan Bacon) The star of this vegan bolognese is walnuts. Simmering the nuts for two hours softens them up while bringing out their deep, hearty flavor.

Besides their ability to take on a meaty texture, walnuts are a nutritional powerhouse. They're packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants. The other ingredients in this recipe deliver everything else you need for a satisfying plant-based bolognese: Tomatoes, fresh herbs, coconut milk for creaminess, and a splash of red wine for richness. (Related: Creamy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese You Won't Believe Is Vegan)

Next time you're feeling a pasta night, serve this healthy and delicious vegan bolognese sauce over veggie noodles, pasta, polenta, or toasted bread. (Heck, eat it with a spoon.) Whichever way you decide to go, be generous with the grated Parm. (Or, to keep it vegan, consider nutritional yeast.)

Vegan Bolognese with Walnuts

Total time: 3 hours (includes 2 hours of simmering)
Serves: 8

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup very finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup very finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup very finely chopped carrots Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 11⁄2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
  • 1⁄4 cup dry red wine
  • 1⁄4 cup canned coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Put onions, celery, and carrots in a small saucepan. Add enough oil to just cover vegetables and a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are golden and tender, about 10 minutes. When oil stops bubbling, carefully pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Reserve vegetables and oil separately.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of reserved oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oregano and garlic and cook, stirring, just until garlic sizzles, about 30 seconds. Add walnuts and cook, stirring, until evenly toasted, about 5 minutes. Add reserved vegetables and half basil. Stir well, then add the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, then stir well; reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are dark red, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add wine and reserved tomato juice; stir well. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in coconut milk, then season to taste with salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in remaining basil and season to taste with salt.

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