When it comes to pasta, this vegan spaghetti bolognese is our favourite comfort food. Our easy recipe is a perfect fusion of Italian inspired flavours and vegan cuisine.
In my childhood, spaghetti bolognese was a regular on the meal plan. So when I first went vegetarian and then vegan, it was one of the foods I missed most. But not anymore!
With a handful of staple ingredients of the vegan kitchen, you can have a make a bolognese sauce that is every bit as flavourful as the traditional version that you used to know and love!
Traditionally bolognese sauce or ragu is cooked for a long time to build a depth of flavour. But with this recipe we wanted to create a really quick and rich sauce, for those times when you’re hungry for an easy vegan spag bol!
It starts out like a classic Italian bolognese by sauteeing some finely diced veg (an Italian cooking technique called soffritto). Then, our vegan version gets its meaty texture and flavour from super well seasoned soya mince. Finally, tomatoes and herbs complete the flavours of this tasty vegan bolognese.
Read on for ingredient tips and step by step instructions, as well as the full recipe for this easy vegan spaghetti bolognese!
There are quite a few ingredients in this bolognese as we wanted to create a rich and full bodied sauce. But we also wanted to keep it simple, and we think we did a great job of that!
Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
- Olive oil, onion, carrots + celery - This makes the soffritto, which is a base of finely chopped sauteed vegetables, and is an essential flavour component to Italian cuisine.
- Garlic and herbs - For the herbs we recommend a dried Italian seasoning or herb mix containing plenty of oregano.
- Dried soya mince - This provides the meaty texture and plant-based protein. It’s great value, and easily soaks up flavour if you season it well. We always buy organic soy mince which is non GMO.
- Soy sauce and liquid smoke work magic to make the soya mince more tasty.
- Seasonings - Paprika, sugar and black pepper are all used to enhance the flavour and bring umami.
- Tomato passata, tomato puree/paste and soy milk - The passata makes the bulk of the sauce, and the paste brings its concentrated flavour to make a thicker, richer sauce. Soy milk adds a nice creamy touch too!
If you don’t have all these ingredients to hand, check the section below for substitutions.
Substitutions and variations
Instead of dried soya mince, you could use your favourite plant based mince and skip using the water used to rehydrate the mince. For a wholefoods alternative, you could experiment with a mixture of ground walnuts, cauliflower or mushrooms.
For the vegetable base, you could use leeks as an alternative to onions, and celeriac root instead of a stick of celery. If you’ve got some veggies which need using, such as courgette/zucchini or pepper, you can also add them in.
Don't leave out the onions entirely, but for a real quickie you can leave out the other veg and add a teaspoon or two of bouillon powder or stock cube, which usually contain celery and carrot, to the rehydrating soy mince.
Lentils also make a delicious ragu, check out our vegan lentil ragu recipe.
You could add some red wine if you fancy! Use it to deglaze the veg and soy mince, before you add the tomato.
How to cook it
Our vegan ragu alla bolognese creates layers of deep flavour by adding ingredients in several stages. But don't worry, it's not at all too complicated!
You can find the full method in the recipe card at the end of the post, but the here's a handy visual step-by-step guide:
Step by step
Step 1 - In a bowl combine the dried soya mince, water, olive oil, paprika, soy sauce and liquid smoke and set aside to rehydrate.
Step 2 - Saute the finely chopped onion, celery and grated carrot in olive oil.
Step 3 - Add garlic and herbs and continue to cook for another minute.
Step 4 - Add the rehydrated mince, season with black pepper, and stir whilst frying for a few minutes.
Step 5 - Stir in the passata, tomato puree and sugar and continue to cook
Step 6 - Then stir in the soy milk and cook down briefly until thickened.
This is a quick cook vegan bolognese! So unlike traditional bolognese sauce you won’t have to simmer for that long until the sauce has cooked down.
How to cook the perfect spaghetti
Cook pasta to perfection like an Italian would? No problem.
There is endless debate going on about this. But cooking decent pasta is not exactly rocket science, actually. Without going into excruciating detail - here are few simple steps that ensure you get the best result out of your pasta.
- To cook the perfect pasta, use a big saucepan and a lot of water.
- Don't add the pasta before the water is properly boiling.
- Salt the cooking water just before or after the pasta goes in. Not only does salt make the pasta more flavoursome, it's also widely agreed to help the cooking process itself.
- Set a timer to prevent overcooking. Different types and brands of pasta vary in cooking time. Better to keep it a minute on the short side (we start at 10 minutes for spaghetti) and then test every minute until...
- ... the pasta is al dente. Literally Italian for 'to the tooth', this refers to that sweet spot where pasta has just a bit of a bite in its very core.
- Drain cooked pasta immediately. Don't leave it swimming in the still hot cooking water until serving time.
As a final tip, here's what we do sometimes to keep cooked pasta from sticking: briefly rinse it with cold water just after draining. Stirring in a little bit of olive oil or sauce will also help prevent spaghetti sticking and lumping together.
For a classic spaghetti bolognese, we cook 75 g (3oz.) of spaghetti per portion.
Don’t be fooled if it doesn’t look like enough sauce per serving! The ragu actually is so rich that you don’t need all that much of it for a satisfying plate of pasta bolognese.
As a final trick up our sleeves, we love to top off our vegan bolognese with a generous sprinkle of our sunflower seed vegan parmesan. Use it as you would grated parmesan. But it’s also a great way to give an instant flavour boost to almost any dish.
You could even use this vegan ragú alla bolognese to make a delicious vegan lasagna. Add just a bit extra liquid to the sauce to help cook the pasta sheets.
Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese
For the soy mince
For the sauce
- 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or 3oz/ 75g per portion
- vegan sunflower seed parmesan optional
- fresh rocket / arugula optional
- fresh basil optional
- In a bowl, combine the dried soy mince, soy sauce, liquid smoke, olive oil, paprika and water. Set aside to let the mince rehydrate.
- Heat up olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the finely chopped onion, celery and grated carrot. Sauté on medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are translucent and start to turn golden brown.
- Whilst sautéing the veg, put on a large saucepan of water for cooking the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and a bit of salt. Bring to a gentle roll and cook for about 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente, and drain. TIP: If the pasta is done before the sauce is, very briefly rinse it with a splash of cold water after draining, add it back to the empty saucepan and set aside until ready to serve. A teaspoon of olive oil stirred into the cooked pasta can further keep it from sticking.
- When you've finished sautéing the vegetables in the frying pan, stir in the garlic and herbs and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Next, add in the rehydrated soy mince to the pan. Season with black pepper and continue to stir regularly while frying the mince for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the passata, tomato puree/paste and sugar, stir well and continue to cook on low-medium heat for another 5 minutes.
- Finally, stir in the soy milk and just briefly simmer for another minute.
- If the pasta still needs cooking, cover the sauce with a lid and set aside until ready to serve.
- Serve this vegan bolognese with spaghetti (75 g / 3oz. dry pasta per person), a crack of black pepper, and optionally a sprinkle of homemade vegan parmesan and some rocket/arugula or a few fresh basil leaves.