Vegetarian Bolognese

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Ouch, I think I just got a splinter in my face!, I muttered.

I was not a happy camper.  I had been (quite literally) bitten in the face by the spring-cleaning bug and I was tackling that cupboard in the kitchen.  You know the cupboard I’m talking about, the one you let go for months telling yourself it really isn’t that bad.  You probably have one too…it has random pots, pans, bowls, lids that doesn’t seem to match anything, plastic containers, glass jars of all sizes (why is it that for the life of me I can’t part with a single glass jar?), all manner of kebab sticks, coffee pots (four Turkish coffee pots, two French presses, and one American drip coffee maker, to be specific), a Crockpot, half sheet pans, quarter sheet pans, serving trays, pizza stones, popsicle trays, extra ice cube trays, and a few other odds and ends.

And in my kitchen, the worst part about this cupboard is that its door is small but it’s very deep so I nearly have to crawl into it to reach the items in the back.  Hence the splinter in my face, lol.

The good thing about this cleaning frenzy was that I was at least able to multi-task.  I had a pot of Bolognese on the stove as I was working, and it made the kitchen smell divine.  Sauce is one of those things that generally requires all afternoon to simmer so the flavors can come together.  This one simmers for about an hour (which is faster than most, but still not a fast meal), but I was in the kitchen plugging along anyway so it really wasn’t any trouble to give the sauce an occasional stir.  And at the end of the day’s work I got to sit down to a delicious meal.

The funny thing about this Bolognese is that the original recipe (Spaghetti with Pork Bolognese) has three different kinds of pork (ground pork tenderloin, ground pork, and pancetta), and Mike and I don’t eat pork at all.  I omitted the pork and used five-grain tempeh for protein instead.  (Of course, ground turkey, chicken, or beef would also be delicious…and maybe with turkey bacon instead of pancetta.)  If you want to keep it vegetarian but bump up the protein even more, in addition to the tempeh you can add a can of rinsed, drained lentils (or any beans you like) or serve the sauce on top of quinoa.

Vegetarian Bolognese (Adapted from Cooking Light’s recipe for Spaghetti with Pork Bolognese)

Yields about 4 1/2 cups of sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

1 large carrot, finely diced

1 medium-large stalk celery, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided

8 oz 5-grain tempeh, crumbled

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes

1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1 cup reduced-fat milk

5 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce*

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Pinch ground cinnamon

1 (2 oz) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind

Fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for topping

Chopped fresh parsley, for topping

Prepared noodles (optional; for serving)

*Look for vegetarian/vegan Worcestershire to keep this dish vegetarian.

Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart pot over medium heat; add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until the veggies are softened, about 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Add the tempeh and cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly.  Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook until the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to get up any brown bits that have formed (that’s where the flavor is!).

Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, milk, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, and Paramigiano-Reggiano rind, and bring up to a boil.  Turn heat down and simmer (uncovered) until thickened, about 45 to 60 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the bay leaves and cheese rind.

Serve the sauce on top of noodles, and sprinkle on a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley, if desired.

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  1. says

    Ugh…I dread cleaning that cupboard. I think I\’ll leave it be for now. What a great sauce! The cinnamon is such a fun surprise

  2. says

    This looks amazing! Thanks for sharing—it’s a good reminder of why my sauces don’t turn out great—I keep them too simple and don’t add enough flavors!

  3. says

    I did some spring cleaning as well, although the task is troublesome the reward is big!
    I love this vegetarian bolognese recipe, I love italian bolognese sauce a lot except the meat part, so this is perfecT! :)

  4. says

    This made my mouth water – it looks comforting and very tasty! I wouldn’t miss the meat at all. Spring cleaning is in full force here too!

  5. says

    Spring cleaning is one of the many things on my to-do list these days. Ugh! This recipe has a lot of ingredients but it looks so good! I wouldn’t miss the meat either.

  6. says

    Look at that long list of awesome ingredients for your delicious bolognese!!

    You’re too funny. I definitely have one (more than one) of those cupboards that can’t possibly “be that bad”. I know I have to get to it. Soon. But if I had a pot of bolognese on the stove, it would probably motivate me with my spring cleaning a lot more! Beautiful pasta dish!

  7. says

    What a clever idea to use tempeh in this, Faith. :-) I’m a HUGE fan of pork, I’m afraid, but I’d happily dig into this nonetheless. :-)

  8. says

    I had to laugh at the first sentence! Well, I hope you got the splinter out and kudos for getting the “not that bad” cupboard cleaned out. Yes, I totally have one too! And I was just saying the exact same thing about my own glass jars–it’s so hard for me to part with them b/c I just KNOW I’ll need them for something. And I do, but not for as many as I’ve collected. lol. My hubby just ordered spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight and I was thinking I should try making it at home then I saw this beautiful vegetarian version. (Thank you for not including potatoes–I think that is so weird but they put potatoes in it at the place we were eating at.) Then I saw Annie’s Eats posted a lasagna bolgonese recipe! It’s in the stars.

    • says

      Veronica, Luckily the threat of a splinter was just a little scratch. ;) I usually say to each his own when it comes to food, but I’ll admit I’ve never heard of putting potatoes in Bolognese before…definitely sounds strange! Was it good?

      • says

        Well, the sauce was not spectacular in and of itself and the potatoes were just part of it’s not-so-greatness. Dennis actually spit the first one out when he bit into it because he couldn’t figure out what it was! lol There weren’t many, just a few little chunks. Yours looks WAY better!

  9. says

    A great recipe to companionably simmer away while pottering in the cupboards. The smell must’ve been driving you wild :D I too have deep cupboards, and even have those little stacking shelves so you can see things, and a stick on light (which falls off if you look at it wrong), but still it is a pain. But v therapeutic. The recipe is similar to one I blogged recently but without tempeh (just lentils) and red wine instead of white. I make it every few weeks or so and eat it over steamed minced up cauliflower, which is a great sub for pasta on occasion. I only recently started adding milk to my sauce (something that very rarely gets used in our house) and it really adds something, doesn’t it? Lovely photos. Mouthwatering especially as right now I am having to follow a medically-advised low-fibre diet. Boo

  10. says

    Cleaning the pantry has become a thing I now look forward to because for some reason it inspires me to push the envelope on developing recipes more creatively than usual. Those soon to be expired products really put the pressure on me ;o)

    Faith…This version of vegetarian sauce has so many flavours…how could I miss the meat version of it ;o)

    Have a fabulous week.

  11. Dee W says

    We’ve been trying to cut back on our meat consumption, and this would be a great meal to make. This looks delicious!

  12. says

    Ah yes, the dreaded task of cleaning out the pantry and digging up everything from the back of the cabinet. I’ve tried tempeh, but never in a sauce – love this vegetarian bolognese idea.

  13. says

    The compressor in our refrigerator went out this week, so I was forced to attack the dreaded fridge-and-freezer clean-out task. What a mess!

    Bill would love your vegetarian Bolognese—it looks like it has the right texture, and certainly the marvelous layering of flavors.

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