This ‘Bountiful’ Vegan Bolognese Sauce Recipe Is Almost Better Than The Real Thing

Photo: Stocksy/Carli Teteris
There are plenty of vegetables in it, but your typical Bolognese sauce isn't exactly vegan-friendly. It's also loaded with ground beef, whole milk, and butter. An entirely plant-based iteration, however, is worth every bit of effort for a comforting bowl of pasta. With Café Gratitude vegan recipe, you can flawlessly recreate the beloved texture of Bolognese using a trusty block of tempeh and a few mushrooms.

In the restaurant chain's new affirmation-packed cookbook, Love Is Served ($23), it's impossible to skip past the vegan Bolognese recipe without doing a double-take.

"If there was one lesson I learned while cooking in Italy, it was how to tease the most flavor out of humble ingredients," says executive chef Seizan Dreux Ellis. "Making a traditional Bolognese sauce is the perfect example of the labor of love in the kitchen—it's a long, slow process that infuses an otherwise simple sauce with deep, rich flavor. But in this case, because we're using tempeh instead of meat, I had to figure out how to impact that same special quality."

love is served cookbook

Shop now: Love Is Served, $23

Chef Ellis thoroughly browns each of the ingredients to "achieve a flavorful, satisfying effect." For the pasta, he recommends high-quality gluten-free shells, which cradle the sauce, or a wide-cut fettuccine. (If you like this recipe, you'll love the restaurant's vegan key lime pie for dessert.)

"I am bountiful" vegan Bolognese with smoky tempeh

Serves 6


For the tempeh Bolognese:
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Compassionate Blend (see recipe below)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 block blackened tempeh, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup white wine
4 cups Marinara sauce
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt

To assemble:
6 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
1/4 cup white wine
1 pound of pasta of choice, cooked according to package instructions
2 cups cashew mozzarella
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup Brazil Nut Parmesan

For the Compassionate Blend:
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp capers in brine, drained
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp smoked salt

For the Brazil Nut Parmesan:
2 cups whole Brazil nuts
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt

To make the Compassionate Blend:

1. In a medium bowl, soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water to cover for 15 minutes, until softened. Drain and reserve the soaking water.
2. In a blender, combine the soaked tomatoes, coconut oil, capers, maple syrup, and salt. Blend until smooth, dense paste forms, adding a teaspoon or 2 of the tomato soaking water, if necessary.
3. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

To make the Brazil Nut Parmesan:

1. Combine the nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor and pulse until you have a light, fluffy crumble. Be careful not to overprocess, as the oil in the Brazil nuts will turn into a paste.
2. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To make the tempeh Bolognese:

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Compassionate Blend and cook for one minute, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon until the oil begins taking on a reddish color.
2. Add the celery, carrot, and red onion and sauté until softened, five minutes.
3. Add the crumbled tempeh and the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, until the mixture has browned and begins sticking to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the wine while scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen up the flavorful bits.
4. Add the marinara, smoked salt, and 1/2 cup of water, and bring the sauce to a simmer.
5. Reduce the heat to low and continue simmering, partially covered, for 20 minutes, until the sauce comes together.

To assemble the pasta:

1. Place the baby spinach in a large serving bowl and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté just until the garlic is fragrant, less than one minute.
3. Add the broccolini and salt and cook until the broccolini starts to become to tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the white wine and simmer until the alcohol has cooked off, about 2 minutes.
5. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the broccolini. Once the pasta is warmed through, about two minutes, pour the pasta-broccolini mixture into the serving bowl over the spinach.
6. Give everything a good toss so all of the spinach wilts.
7. Top with the Bolognese and lightly toss so the Bolognese begins to meld with the pasta.
8. Crumble the cashew mozzarella over the top, followed by some vegan parmesan and a sprinkling of fresh basil. Serve hot.

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