Extra-Nutritious Tofu Bolognese (Packed with Veggies!)
Pasta bolognese, but hold the meat! This plant-based tofu bolognese is a hearty and delicious vegetarian dish that is gluten-free and can easily be made vegan. The best part? The bolognese sauce is loaded with six different vegetables so it’s high in protein, fibre, and nutrition. Serve it up with spaghetti or your favourite pasta for an extra-healthy and filling plant-based meal.
What is Bolognese?
Bolognese is an Italian meat sauce, originally from the Italian city of Bologna. Authentic bolognese sauce is very different from the American-style bolognese that most of us know, which is typically a tomato-based sauce with ground beef.
Authentic Italian bolognese is usually thicker, creamier (it contains milk), and actually made with very little tomato (usually just a bit of tomato paste). I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had authentic bolognese, but when my husband and I head to Italy this year for our honeymoon, I can’t wait to try it.
About This Tofu Bolognese Recipe:
Italians, look away! This recipe for tofu ‘bolognese’ is far from authentic. It’s definitely more in line with the American version of bolognese. However, it is a tasty (and nutritious!) main dish that you can make at home in 30 minutes.
Instead of ground beef, we use crumbled tofu. We build on the Italian soffrito (cooked onions, celery, and carrots) with mushrooms and red bell pepper for even more of a veggie boost. And we use crushed tomatoes (another vegetable – that makes six!) plus some spices and other ingredients for delicious flavour.
Tofu Spaghetti Bolognese Ingredients:
To make this recipe for bolognese with tofu, you’ll need:
- Olive oil or butter
- Onion, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and red bell pepper
- Salt and pepper
- Extra-firm tofu
- Soy sauce (mainly just to colour the tofu)
- Chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika
- Parmesan cheese (nutritional yeast for a vegan option)
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Dried basil, red pepper flakes, and granulated sugar
- Spaghetti or your favourite pasta noodle (gluten-free variety if needed)
- Parsley or basil for garnish
What Makes it so Nutritious:
As a Registered Dietitian, I’m always looking for innovative ways to sneak nutrition into my recipes. Did I mention that this recipe contains six – yes, six (!!) – different vegetables?
By adding lots of vegetables to this recipe, we’re adding fiber, which is important for digestion, blood sugar management, and feeling full after eating. It also adds a variety of important vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, C and K, and selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
It’s also a well-balanced meal with protein (tofu), carbohydrates (pasta), and vegetables. This combination of foods helps to keep you full and satisfied, and increases the likelihood that you’ll meet your daily nutrition requirements.
Lastly, by pairing our tofu with tomatoes (a good source of vitamin C), this helps with the body’s absorption of the iron from the tofu! Neat, right?
How to Make Tofu Bolognese Sauce:
How to Make Vegan Tofu Bolognese:
You only need one simple swap to make vegan tofu bolognese. Instead using parmesan cheese in the recipe, just swap this for nutritional yeast or a plant-based ‘parmesan’ option.
To make the recipe gluten-free, all you need to do is use a gluten-free pasta variety. If you have celiac disease, make sure to use a product that is certified gluten-free!
Storage Tips and Substitution Suggestions:
You can store bolognese sauce leftovers separate from the pasta noodles, or on top/mixed together – whatever you prefer! Store leftovers in the fridge up to 4 days and reheat as you please.
You can also freeze the sauce up to 3 months! Just defrost in the fridge before re-heating on the stove or in the microwave.
As for substitutions, you can really add or omit and vegetables that you like. To make the recipe even easier, sub out the crushed tomatoes, basil, red pepper flakes and sugar for a jarred pasta sauce.
Connect with Hannah Magee, RD!
I hope you love this recipe as much as I do. If you try it, let me know what you think by leaving a rating and a review in the comments below.
Oh, and be sure to take a photo and tag me at @hannahmagee_rd so I can re-share on my stories!
Extra-Nutritious Tofu Bolognese (Packed with Veggies!)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, or butter, divided
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 block extra-firm tofu, crumbled
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated, or nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water, optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh parsley or basil, finely chopped, for garnish
- 900 grams dry spaghetti, cooked
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together crumbled tofu, soy sauce, parmesan cheese, chilli powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, over medium high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and red pepper and sauté until softened and beginning to caramelize (approx. 5 to 8 minutes).
- Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes, until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper then remove from the pan onto a plate and reserve.
- Add the other tbsp olive oil to the pan, then add spiced tofu mixture in. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir frequently to ensure it doesn't burn.
- Add the vegetable mixture back to the pot. Pour in crushed tomatoes and add dried basil, red pepper flakes, sugar, and water (optional) if the sauce is too thick. Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Serve over spaghetti or your favourite pasta noodle. Garnish with finely chopped parsley or basil, and more parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast).