This vegetarian bolognese is made with finely diced tempeh and a variety of flavorful pantry ingredients. Perfect for dinner parties or even meal prep!
I will admit that I’m not much of a pasta person (unless it’s this roasted butternut squash pasta), but this tempeh bolognese finally has me excited for pasta!
This vegetarian version of the classic Italian dish is loaded with freshly chopped veggies, protein-rich tempeh and flavor from a variety of seasonings and wine.
If you’re new to tempeh or don’t usually like its flavor, this is a great recipe to try. Because the tempeh is finely chopped and coated with tomato sauce it’s almost unnoticeable.
This recipe is great for dinner parties or family meals because it takes under an hour to cook and feels more sophisticated than classic spaghetti.
When I make this recipe I usually end up eating the leftovers throughout the week. Nothing like a little bit of vegetarian spaghetti bolognese to make leftovers feel a little fancier!
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Ingredients and substitutions
Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you away. Most of these ingredients are vegetarian pantry staples and everything else can easily be used up in other recipes.
Spaghetti: Arguably the most important ingredient in the dish. Choose white, whole wheat or even a protein spaghetti. Angel hair or linguine will work if you’re in a pinch. Honestly, this also goes well on short pasta like elbow or rigatoni.
Tempeh and mushrooms: A combination of finely diced baby bella mushrooms and diced tempeh give a “meaty” texture. Cremini or white can be used if you can’t find baby bella. I include the mushroom stalks because they add extra texture.
Mirepoix and garlic: Also known as celery, onions and carrots. This finely diced mix is sauteed in olive oil to create the base flavor of the dish.
Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes and tomato paste make up the base of the sauce. I use cans labeled with “no added salt” for better control over sodium content. This way you can taste for salt while cooking instead of accidentally over salting the dish.
Wine: The alcohol cooks off while simmering, leaving behind a rich flavor. That being said, you can replace wine with equal amounts of vegetable broth if desired. I recommend using a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc. I also made this recipe with a cabernet sauvignon and it tasted delicious. Choose a wine that you enjoy drinking, not one that has been open for a week.
Step by step instructions
In a dutch over or large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add finely diced onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, tempeh and garlic. Sprinkle with soy sauce (image one).
Saute for 8-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally for even browning (image two).
Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the pasta: Italian seasoning, salt, nutritional yeast (optional), bay leaves, butter (replace with vegan butter as needed), crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and wine. Stir to combine.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer over medium low. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavor to develop, stirring occasionally. You can simmer the sauce for up to an hour or for as little as 10 minutes.
The longer it simmers, the more the flavors develop. You will also be simmering off some of the liquid from the tomatoes and wine.
More simmering also creates a thicker the sauce. You can add a splash of vegetable broth to thin as needed.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package instructions in salted water. The sauce should be about ready when the spaghetti is done.
Top with freshly grated Parmesan, cashew parmesan or vegan cheese. Add fresh chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper for extra pizzazz.
This recipe can be frozen for up to 3 months in freezer-safe containers. Let thaw completely in the fridge for up to 24 hours before reheating in the microwave.
Vegetarian Bolognese with Tempeh
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces finely chopped tempeh
- 8 ounces finely chopped baby bella mushrooms see note #1
- 1 cup finely diced yellow onion about 1 medium onion
- 1/2 cup finely diced celery about 1 celery stalk
- 1/2 cup finely diced carrot about 1 large carrot
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup dry white wine see note #2
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt more as needed
- 10 ounces dry spaghetti
- fresh basil, Parmesan (or vegan cheese) and freshly ground black pepper for topping
- In a dutch over or large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add tempeh, mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots, and garlic. Sprinkle with soy sauce.
- Saute for 8-10 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally for even browning.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the pasta: crushed tomatoes (including juices), tomato paste, wine, nutritional yeast, butter, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, salt. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer over medium low. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavor to develop, stirring occasionally. You can simmer this sauce for up to an hour or for as little as 10 minutes if you are short on time. The longer you simmer, the more the sauce thickens and flavor develops.
- Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package instructions in salted water. The sauce should be about ready when the spaghetti is done cooking.
- Discard bay leaves. Serve spaghetti and bolognese sauce topped with freshly grated Parmesan, chopped basil and freshly ground black pepper.
- Mushrooms: Always rinse mushrooms before using to remove dirt. Use both the stem and the cap in this recipe. White or crimini mushrooms can be used if baby bella is unavailable.
- Wine: The alcohol cooks off while simmering, leaving behind a rich flavor. Replace wine with equal amounts of vegetable broth if desired. I recommend using a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc. I also made this recipe with a red wine blend and it tasted delicious. Choose a wine that you enjoy drinking, not one that has been open for a week.