The Best Vegetable Bolognese
The Best Vegetable Bolognese- a plant-based take on classic bolognese that’s bursting with umami flavor. Perfect for special occasions and holidays, this pasta is sure to be a hit with everyone!
We’re officially less than one week away from Christmas! I don’t know about you guys but I’m gearing up to eat all the Italian food and cookies my stomach handle. We always eat Italian for Christmas in my family and it’s pretty much the best thing ever.
It’s been 5 years since we’ve been home for the holidays so I’ve gotten used to cooking my own Italian meals. This vegetable bolognese happens to be one of our all-time favorites.
The first time I made it was when we were just starting to eat vegetarian. I had no clue what to cook and turned to the all mighty Giada for help. I know she cooks a lot of meaty dishes but you’d be surprised by how many amazing vegetarian recipes she has up her sleeve, including this vegetable bolognese. Brandon and I went nuts the first time we tried it and it’s been a staple ever since.
Red pepper, onion, carrots, and mushrooms are finely chopped and cooked with red wine, tomato paste, herbs, and rehydrated mushroom liquid. I know that last part might sound complicated but all you have to do is soak dried mushrooms in hot water until they release their flavorful juices. It’s so simple and it makes a world of difference for the palate.
Even though I’ve been making this recipe for 10 years it wasn’t until recently that I thought to make it entirely plant-based. I did this by cutting out the parmesan and the mascarpone then replacing them with cashew cream blended with miso, lemon juice and nutritional yeast.
That’s probably considered blasphemy to a true Italian but I can tell you with all honestly that this version is just as good. If you’re looking for a special plant-based meal that will knock everyone’s socks off, this is IT!
The Best Vegetable Bolognese
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms (I like porcini)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano
- 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (such as cabernet, merlot or pinot noir)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon miso
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta (preferably whole grain)*
In a small pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the raw cashews and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
In a measuring cup, microwave 1 cup water for 2 minutes, or heat until boiling. Add the dried mushrooms and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes.
Using a food processor, finely chop the onion, red pepper, garlic and carrot. In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped vegetables, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
Separate the dried mushrooms from the hot water (while reserving liquid for later) and finely chop them, discarding any hard pieces. Use the food processor to finely chop the fresh mushrooms (careful not to over blend, you want some texture here).
To the pot, stir in the tomato paste, herbs, chopped mushrooms and rehydrated mushrooms. Cook for another 3 minutes, then pour in the reserved mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until liquid has reduced by half.
Strain the excess water from the cashews then add them to a blender. Add 1/4 cup water, lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast, and miso then blend on high until smooth. Transfer the cream to the pot and stir together until evenly distributed.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare the pasta as directed. When pasta is tender, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water then strain the rest. Add the cooked pasta and the reserved water to the pot with the bolognese. Stir until evenly coated then serve warm with fresh thyme and cashew parmesan (optional- see notes).
*Substitute gluten-free pasta to make this GF. You can use any shape pasta but we like it best with rigatoni.
To make your own cashew parmesan cheese, combine 1 cup raw cashews with 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Click Here for Nutrition Facts
Nutrition Facts are for 1/8th of recipe
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Did you try this recipe? Please let me know how it turned out by leaving a comment below or sharing a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #makingthymeforhealth. I love hearing your feedback!
That’s awesome you get to spend Christmas with your family! Comforting Italian food is such a great way of coming together, and this veggie bolognese looks INCREDIBLE! Those cashews and that nutritional yeast?! Ugh, you genius, you! I made a mushroom bolognese with fresh mushrooms for spaghetti squash a couple weeks ago and absolutely loved it, so I’m anxious to try this recipe and do as you did with the dried. SO MUCH YUM HERE!
I love Italian food so much! The mushroom sounds like it adds such amazing flavor too. I put portabellas in just about everything I can when I have them.
Heeheeh, love your intro! You go girl. Your bolognese looks ridiculously good… and such a great idea to use cashew and nutritional yeast to create the sauce – that earthen, hearty body is there and I’m craving it. Also appreciate how you keep your recipes on the manageable side Sarah, especially this time of year. I’m looking forward to trying this one (I may swap the pasta for pulses and see how it goes – love pasta but it doesn’t love me so much anymore :0). Enjoy Christmas at home and have a beautiful holiday, x.
We always have italian at christmas too! Seeing as how my family is italian that probably makes sense! ha! ANYWAY this looks soooo good! We’re traveling for Christmas this year and I am kinda dreading the food that will be available … maybe I need to try to sneak in one of my own dishes! :) lol
Sarah I can honestly say over the past few months I have made many of your recipes and all of them were easy and delicious. I also love that you include the nutritional content of each recipe cause a girl has got to watch her figure lol and mother loved the banana bread recipe of yours I made for her birthday we enjoyed it together because of my and her celiac disease it has been along time thank you sometimes it is not just making food but memories.
I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me, Sherry. Reading this warmed my heart and made me so grateful that people like you exist in this world. Thank you so much. I hope you have a wonderful holiday full of loving memories!! <3
YAY for Italian food! Great Italian food is something I look forward to every time I visit home (flying out tomorrow night!), and I hope that you enjoy as much of it as your belly can handle! Merry Christmas Sarah! :)
Hehe.. blasphemy! We usually do a grand pizza, finger foods or a big ole’ lasagna! Christmas is never traditional around here… ;) I love how you turn classics on it’s head! That’s the fun of kitchen time, right? This looks incredibly indulgent and delicious, Sarah. Porcini are the best when it comes to umami and are totally worth the price! Then, you amped this recipe up with miso – another umami! Way to goooo!! This looks over the top fabulous and I can’t wait to give it a go!
i’ve tried a few of your recipes already and i am looking forward to trying this one. where can i find dried mushrooms, miso and the yeast? Stop & shop / Whole foods?
Hi Tiffany! You should be able to find everything at Whole Foods. Nutritional yeast is in the bulk section. It’s like a yellow flaky powder. The dried mushrooms are usually in the center aisle near the tomato sauce and the miso is refrigerated. I hope you enjoy it!
Is there a substitute you know of for the miso? I don’t typically use miso and I’m trying to refrain from buying items just for one recipe and then it sits in my cupboard. Trying to do more, “use what you have.” Thanks so much! Looking forward to trying this recipe.
Hi Kristina! You can just leave out the miso. The fermentation of the soybeans helps give the dish a similar funky flavor as the mascarpone cheese, but it will still be good without it!
This was so delicious!!! 8 ounces of cashews yielded a ton of cream though, so mine came out a very different color – still wonderful, but definitely more decadent and creamy than the typical bolognese. Would absolutely make again with that amount if I’m feeling sinful, and avoid half as much if I want it as pictured.
Hi Genna! Thanks for the feedback. I agree this is definitely a creamier version of bolognese. But I’ve made it almost a dozen times as written and mine always looks similar to the images here. Not sure why yours looked so much different but either way, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
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My boyfriend and I made this last night and it was incredibly delicious! The dish had a variety of flavors and was very filling. We substituted the red wine for Sherry cooking wine and it came out pretty good! Definitely adding this recipe to our rotation!
I’m so glad to hear it worked with sherry wine. Thanks Kimberly!
Hi! I’m so excited that I found you and your wonderful receipes. My husband had been a Vegan for over 3 years and my meals have been very repetitive. I have made a few of your recipes, and needless to say they have gone over big! The recipes are easy, and really delicious. Thank you
Your comment just made my night! Thank you, Linda!
I made this for dinner the other night and it was incredible. I added other veggies that i had in the fridge. Quick and easy and very much enjoyed by all.
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HI! I’d love to try this, but looking for a recommendation first. My daughter is allergic to cashews, but is not allergic to almonds, pinenuts, macadamia and hazelnuts – which do you think is the best substitute?
I think blanched almonds or macadamia nuts would work best! :)
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Absolutely loved this recipe! Great vegan dish!
This was amazing. Even my picky kids had seconds and thirds.
So happy to hear that! Thank you, Natalie!
This was absolutely delicious! I must have eaten at least a cup of it with a spoon as I fiddled with the salt level. Couldn’t stop tasting it! Almost a shame to put it on pasta, sooo good. And the ease of the food processor doing all the work was fantastic. Double batch next time and maybe I’ll just spoon it over mashed potatoes. Yum.
This is one of my all-time favorite recipes and I love to hear that someone else enjoys it as much as I do. Thanks for the feedback, Laura!
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I made this and it was so great! Really genuinely tasted like bolognese and had that hearty, umami, comforting vibe.
Usually I’m not a fan of recipes that try to replicate meat-based classics (and I’m also really critical of internet recipes that are described as amazing but are only so so when you actually cook them), and I rarely bother to write reviews, but this one really did tick all the boxes. I was a bit unconvinced as I was cooking, but the cashew cheese really brought it together at the end. Added that slightly dry gritty texture of ground meat, and a nice parmesan-y flavour.
I made a few adjustments:
– I added some celery at the beginning with the carrots etc
– I used shiitake mushrooms (porcini would’ve been better I’m sure, but it’s what I could find, and it worked)
– My veg mixture was waaaaaay too dry to reduce to a sauce – I added a stubby of beer on top of the wine (non-traditional I know, but my brother sometimes adds beer to his bolognese, and it really works).
– I added the (fresh) herbs with the tomato paste rather than at the end, including a bay leaf.
– Used heaps more tomato paste than the recipe directed (maybe double or more).
– I also added a couple of stock cubes.
Pretty happy too that it made a good amount – some will be going in the freezer for a rainy day. 10/10 will make again. Thanks so much!
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OMG this is amazing, my husband said it was one of the best things I have made. I didn’t use the porcini mushrooms, just didn’t have any so I used broth for the mushroom water. I only put in half the cashew sauce, saving the rest for something else. Next time I will process the red pepper, carrots and onion separately in the food processor. The food processor made this recipe quick, should have made a double batch. Would be great over zucchini noodles for low carb option.
what can you use instead of mushrooms?
They are the bulk of the recipe so it’s hard to say…maybe eggplant but I’d have to test it to see how it works!
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