I’m bout to have some Italians chasing me down with pitchforks for using the oxymoron “Vegetarian Bolognese”…but wait! It’s yummy. And it looks like a bolognese. And it feels like a bolognese. And it has a lot of the same ingredients…so, can we still be frands? I realize that I just created a vegetarian version of a super traditionally meat loaded sauce…kind of like saying “Vegetarian Fried Chicken”! But I have my reasons…let’s discuss.
First of all, it has the same super finely chopped veggies (we even go extreme here and pulse the veggies in a food processor), the same type of veggie base (onion, celery, carrot, garlic), the same SUPER thick texture so that it almost doesn’t even appear to be a sauce, and it has the addition of a little bit of dairy at the end – whaaatup half and half, you creamy little decadent friend.
The only non traditional elements here are the addition of zucchini, the lack of meat, and the addition of one other super cool ingredient that we are going to talk about later. I also don’t add wine but that’s just cause I don’t like writing recipes where you have to go to multiple stores to get the ingredients, and here in lovely Kansas they don’t sell wine in grocery stores (whaayyyyyyy???).
In fact, if you look at this sauce, if you take a nice close look, I bet you can’t even tell it doesn’t have meat. Looks just like a normal bolognese sauce, right? It tastes pretty darn close, too.
One of my favorite things to do with cooking is to create fun vegetarian recipes or, even better, create vegetarian versions of dishes that are traditionally made with meat. It’s not that I don’t like meat – I am far from vegetarian, but I do love my veggies, and I think it’s a fun challenge to make vegetarian dishes where you don’t miss the meat.
And it makes it extra satisfying when you come up with an awesome one…like this!
One trick to cooking really perfect vegetarian food is to include hearty ingredients to make up for the fact that you don’t have any meat happenin’ in there. Things like beans, lentils, and mushrooms (except I hate mushrooms) are perfect. Nuts are also great, which brings me to our secret ingredient here!
That’s right. We just threw walnuts into a bolognese sauce. Weird right? But so good. Here’s what happens: you chop the nuts up super finely, like “no piece larger than a pea” finely, and then you throw the walnuts into the sauce before you add the tomatoes, and the sauce simmers all together for half an hour.
The walnuts become slightly soft, but they are still a super hearty element in the sauce, giving it the feel of having ground beef in there. The flavor is also super yummy – it doesn’t taste like you are eating a mouthful of walnuts, but it does add a nice complexity, depth, and earthiness to the sauce.
I’m tellin you…it’s a winner. And it tastes amazing folded into a nice hot bowl of pasta!…