Made with mushrooms, onions, fresh herbs, and walnuts, this Vegan Mushroom Bolognese is a plant-based take on a traditional Italian comfort food. Serve it over gluten free pasta or veggie noodles for a hearty meal the whole family will love!
Part 3 of Omega week, this recipe is part of our Restorative Health Series, meaning each recipe featured is made with nutrient-dense ingredients to help nourish your body! Stay tuned next week for all things spice!
Better Than Bolognese
Do you love pasta? With recipes like Creamy Tomato Gluten Free Pasta, 5 Ingredient Creamy Vegan Pasta with Walnut Sauce, Vegan Jalapeño Chickpea Mac and Cheese, it’s pretty clear to me why it’s such a popular comfort food! One of my favorite pasta dishes has always been Spaghetti Bolognese. Whether I’m serving it with regular gluten free pasta noodles or veggie noodles, it always hits the spot. A traditional Italian recipe, bolognese sauce is a meat-based recipe that can be dated all the way back to 1891 where it appears in a cookbook! (Source)
Similar to many of today’s variations, the original recipe included lean veal, pancetta, butter, onions, carrots, and broth. However, in the spirit of our restorative health month, I decided to switch it up a bit, using the flavors of traditional bolognese to inspire this Easy Mushroom Bolognese! Just as hearty and flavorful as the original, this vegan bolognese is made with healthy fats, fresh veggies, and seasonings for a plant-based recipe everyone (even the meat-eaters in your life) will love!
We’re Going Nuts Over this Vegan Bolognese
Contrary to popular belief, making a vegan bolognese sauce is easy to do! In fact, all it takes are a few fresh ingredients and simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to a delicious dinner.
Ingredients and Easy Substitutions
While you will find a few traditional ingredients in this mushroom bolognese, many have been swapped out for plant-based options that add nutrients to this dish while replicating the original flavors we love.
- Walnuts – Traditionally, the primary fat source in bolognese recipes is the pancetta. However, I found that by toasting walnuts, we can replicate the same flavors while also adding healthy omega fats to this easy bolognese sauce.
Nutrition Note: Walnuts are a great source of Omega-3’s, alpha-linolenic acid to be exact, providing roughly 2.5 grams per every 1-ounce serving (Source). They also provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals including manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, and iron, just to name a few.
As a result, they can help to fight depression, improve brain health, improve heart health, support the immune system, and more! Read more about the benefits of walnuts here.
- Mushrooms – Acting as the “meat” of this recipe, mushrooms add high-quality plant protein and an umami flavor that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. Cremini or Shiitake mushrooms work best!
- Gluten Free Soy Sauce (Tamari) – If you can’t find tamari, feel free to use balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze instead.
- Veggies – Carrots, onions, and celery combine to create a thicker texture and hearty flavor. Plus, they provide ample amounts of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber!
- Tomato Paste and Crushed Tomatoes – Tomato paste serves as the base of this sauce. However, if you don’t have any on hand, a refined-sugar free ketchup can be used in its place.
- Wine – Traditional bolognese sauces use red wine to compliment the flavors of the meat. However, in order to help the mushrooms “sweat,” I swapped it out for white wine, but you could use broth instead.
- Herbs and Spices – Salt, garlic, chili flakes, parsley, basil, pepper, and bay leaves combine to create a rich flavor and can help fight inflammation in the body.
Pro-Tip: To enhance richness, I like to crumble a Bouillon cube into the batter! It helps create an umami flavor that can be used to replace balsamic syrup or vegemite commonly found in meat-based bolognese recipes.
Tips for Making an Easy Bolognese Sauce (Meatless)
As with Vegan Mushroom Meatballs, this Mushroom Bolognese has a taste and texture similar to regular meat sauces thanks to the blending of the veggies and a slow cooking process that extracts the flavor from the veggies. Take a look at how it’s done below!
- Toast. To begin, place the chopped walnuts in a large pan, and toast them over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until they are fragrant.
- Pulse. Transfer the walnuts to a food processor, and pulse them 2-3 times before transferring them to a medium bowl. Then, wipe out the food processor, add the mushrooms, and pulse another 2-3 times.
Preparation Tip: If you don’t have a food processor, use a knife to finely chop the nuts and veggies. I don’t recommend opting for a blender as you run the risk of over-blending the ingredients! You want them to be small but not completely pulverized in order to replicate the texture of meat.
- Sauté. Wipe down the same pan used to toast the nuts, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and let it warm on medium heat before adding the mushroom pieces. Season them with salt and pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes or until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms have browned. Add 1-2 tablespoons of tamari, and continue to cook the mushrooms for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer. Once cooked, season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and place them in the mixing bowl with the walnuts. Add 1 tablespoon of tamari sauce, and mix until everything is well-combined.
- Combine and Cook. Using the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, and add the celery, carrots, garlic, and onions, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Be sure to mix the ingredients, and cook them, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the garlic and onion are fragrant and begin to caramelize. Then, add the mushrooms and walnuts, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, parsley, and basil. Let the ingredients cook for another minute, and be sure to stir constantly.
- Mix. Mix in the white wine, and continue to cook the ingredients on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until the alcohol has reduced, creating a slightly thicker sauce.
- Boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and broth, and crumble a bouillon cube on top of the sauce mixture. Then, bring the ingredients to a quick boil over high heat, and immediately reduce the heat to low. Add the bay leaf, cover the pot, and let your mushroom bolognese sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season. After 30 minutes, remove the bay leaf, adjust the seasonings to taste, and serve!
Tried and Tested Tips & Tricks
I’ve tested and re-tested this mushroom bolognese many times to make sure it is perfect for you. However, if you want to add even more flavor to your meal, take a look at some of my preparation tips below!
Create a Richer Flavor. For extra richness, try drizzling olive oil and sprinkling Parmesan or nutritional yeast on top of your mushroom bolognese before serving.
Create a Creamier Texture. Add a dash of non-dairy cream (or real cream if you can tolerate it) to your bolognese, and give it a quick stir at the very end of the cooking process to create a slightly silkier texture.
Use Dried Mushrooms. For extra savory flavor, use dried mushrooms! Just be sure to let them soak in water for 20 minutes to rehydrate before making this mushroom bolognese!
Traditional bolognese is paired and served with tagliatelle pasta made with eggs. However, acceptable alternatives to fresh tagliatelle include other broad, flat pasta shapes as well as tube shapes such as pappardelle, fettuccine, rigatoni, and penne. However, for options that are better suited for a wide variety of dietary needs, I like to serve vegan bolognese over zoodle or veggie noodles, gluten free pasta, or in an Italian casserole!
Meal Prep Q&A!
Yes! Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months!
Use the stovetop, microwave, or oven to reheat leftover bolognese.
Don’t panic! This is common. All you have to do is add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of non dairy milk/cream or broth, and give your sauce a good stir.
Have you ever tried mushroom bolognese? Either way, if you give this easy bolognese recipe a shot, I’d love it if you let me know in the comments below! You won’t be disappointed!