Gluten Free Recipes Vegan Vegetarian

Vegan Bolognese

March 9, 2017

Vegan Bolognese
(AKA – It’s just sauce and some beans, but really good)

Vegan Bolognese 4

I’m a “To-Do List” person. I make a to-do list every Monday morning for the week. I’ve done the same method for about 6 years. I’ve tried some fancy planners, but nothing works better for me than a blank sheet of white printer paper with “To Do” written at the top and the days of the week going down the side, unevenly spaced out written in my chicken scratch. Usually my to-do list has work related stuff, things that need to be done around the house, and mundane chores that I do without prompting but like to scratch off anyway – I know I’m not alone here (Hi Kaitlin!).

Then there are the items that never leave the to-do list and remain on the list for several weeks:

  • Return pillows
  • Look into dance class
  • Give meditation another chance
  • Learn to make a great pasta sauce
  • Stop eating so much pasta
  • Change blog name to – Pasta Recipes Only

Vegan Bolognese 1

A few weeks ago, on a family ski vacation, it was pasta night. I am usually thrilled with plain pasta sauce. I have been known to take several spoonfuls from the Rao’s jar. We had several options going – a Bolognese, a gluten-free pasta, and a veggie option (we’re high maintenance and know it). I peered over into the pot that my brother was stirring. It was filled with much more substance than the basic marinara sauce that I was making. Admittedly, I was a bit jealous.

So I started to doctor up the sauce that I was responsible for. I was a little sheepish as I presented what I thought was basically crushed tomatoes with leftover beans. Turns out crushed tomatoes and leftovers are a hit!

Vegan Bolognese 2

As mentioned, you could easily take a jar of pasta sauce and add a few cans of beans to it, and that’s totally fine if that’s what you do (that’s what I usually do), but I feel that making your own sauce is a right of passage. For some reason I look at it as an accomplishment. And after the several recipe tests that I’ve screwed up, this outcome is certainly an accomplishment, especially after the night we basically had ketchup and pasta for dinner.

A few notes on this recipe:

  • Beans – You can use canned, but I thought the ratio of beans to sauce was a little heavy. I like to make my own beans – they don’t fall apart as easily and taste much better.
  • When you make your pasta, save a cup of starchy water before draining the noodles. Adding a half to a full cup helps give the sauce some body and it clings to the pasta better.
  • The herbs and spices can certainly be adjusted. I like a spicy sauce, so I added some extra red pepper flakes and a touch of cayenne.
  • I added a little lemon juice at the end of the sauce to brighten the taste without adding more salt.

Vegan Bolognese 3

Vegan Bolognese
Serving: 2 ½ cups of sauce

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, separated
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 teaspoons of salt, separated
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon of cayenne
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of organic crushed tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh basil (about 6 leaves, not removed from the stem)
1 sprig of fresh oregano (optional)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (optional)
1/3 cup of dry garbanzo beans, cooked
1/3 cup of dry black beans, cooked
1 pound of pasta


  1. In a medium size pot on medium heat, coat the bottom of the pot with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced onion to the pot and a teaspoon of salt. Stir occasionally for about 7 minutes or until translucent.
  2. Add the dried spices and minced garlic. Stir for about 3 minutes, not letting the garlic brown. (You made need a little more oil at this point, but once the tomatoes are added, they will deglaze the bottom of the pan, removing the pieces that are stuck).
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, and stir in the bay leaves, fresh basil, and fresh oregano. Add a teaspoon of salt and another tablespoon of olive oil. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover and bring down the heat to low. Leave the sauce on low for an hour or longer, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the aromatics (bay leaves, fresh basil, and fresh oregano) and add the prepared beans to the sauce. At this point taste the sauce – you may want to use the lemon juice or add more salt.
  5. Prepare your pasta and combine it with the sauce. Don’t forget to add ½-1 cup of the pasta water to the sauce. I recommend preparing this dish with a sautéed leafy green, such as swiss chard, spinach, kale, or broccoli rabe. Garnish with your choice of topping – you’ll see hemp seeds in the above pictures.

PS – This meme from MyTherapistSays made me laugh until I cry emoji
MyTherapistSays Meme


What’s on your To-Do List?

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