A few years ago, I started converting a lot of our regular traditional meat recipes to vegetarian (often vegan) flavour packed versions. It was simply to get the boys to eat more plant-based meals and open up their minds to healthier options. Little did I know that we would actually end up loving the vegetarian versions more than the original ones. Like this Vegan Bolognese made with an abundance of garlic, mushrooms and lentils slow simmered with more herbs than should be legally allowed in a Bolognese. The result is a rich, thick pasta sauce that hugs spaghetti lovingly and hits the sweet spot on a cold night.
When you cook with meat, the natural fats create a gelatinous texture that results in a gloriously thick sauce. The challenge arises when you go meat-free, especially in a pasta sauce. I often cook vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potatoes to mash into a curry or daal or sauce to create that thick sauce effect. But not this time around. The secret to this Vegan Bolognese’s gorgeous thick sauce is – miso paste and aquafaba.
The miso paste adds saltiness and a depth of flavour to the pasta sauce. Not rinsing and draining the canned lentils but using the aquafaba (soaking liquid) from the can gives you an instant sauce thickener. The free flowing herbs create an unreal flavour combination that is more-ish and hearty. You wouldn’t need a lot of salt to finish the dish as the miso paste is salty enough but make sure you do check for and adjust seasoning. I have included an ingredient shot to show you the brands I use regularly and ones that I really love. They are free from nasties and additives. The Paul Newman Bolognese sauce has to be my favourite base pasta sauce for a number of dishes.
I hope you love the Bolognese sauce. It freezes well and is also amazing for topping Vegan Nachos. I love seeing the dishes you cook from the blog, don’t forget to tag me with #cookrepublic on Instagram when you make this sauce. And I would love to hear your feedback and rating in the comments below. Ciao!
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- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 garlic coves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 large red onion, finely diced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 100 g mushrooms, chopped
- 1 teaspoon caramelised balsamic vinegar
- 1 X 400g can lentils, with aquafaba or liquid
- 1 X 700g pasta sauce
- 200 g canned diced tomato
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
- 10 basil leaves, roughly torn
- handful of parsley, freshly chopped
- salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra basil leaves, to serve
- Heat oil in a large casserole pot or Dutch oven on medium. Add garlic, bay leaves and chilli. Sauté for a few seconds until garlic starts turning golden. Add onion, oregano and basil. Sauté for a couple of minutes until onion starts caramelizing.
- Add mushroom and continue cooking, tossing occasionally until mushrooms start browning. Add balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and mix well.
- Add lentils (along with the soaking liquid in the can), pasta sauce, tomato, miso, thyme, rosemary, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Cover partially and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a bit of water (1/4 cup) to thin it out.
- Adjust seasoning if required and serve hot over spaghetti. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with a nice basil pesto and a grating of parmesan (for a non-vegan meal).