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!
See that parmesan cheese sprinkled over top of the pasta? That is the one and only little sprinkle of that brand new container of parmesan cheese that got used before the whole thing went bye bye forever. Want to know why? I took Ford to the mall to get a picture with Santa…pause story for adorable photo:
He’s not sure about this “Santa” guy quite yet.
Anyway, I get home, and I see parmesan cheese on my kitchen floor. Which I find strange. Then I look around, and I see an empty container on the floor with teeth marks and ZERO REMAINING CHEESE. Looks like Boone found himself a little cheesy treat while I was gone…total newb move to leave it on the counter…
Needless to say, he stayed outside for the next few hours. Dogs + an entire container of parmesan cheese = a combination I don’t want to stick around for. I’ll just leave it at that.
So the rest of my leftover pasta will sadly remain parmesan cheese-less…THANKS BOONE.
This recipe is 3 Freestyle SmartPoints per serving! (Points and nutrition info do not account for pasta – just one serving of the sauce.)Print
Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 7 servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 zucchini
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (no piece should be larger than a pea)
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup half and half
- Finely chop your veggies (onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and zucchini). I used the grater blade in my food processor and then added the grated veggies back in with the regular blade and pulsed until the veggies were very finely chopped – almost pureed. This makes the prep time SUPER short. If you don’t have a food processor, grating the veggies by hand or very finely chopping them with a knife will work fine!
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add your olive oil. When hot, add your finely chopped veggies and season with salt and pepper. Cook veggies, stirring often, for several minutes until the moisture has cooked out of them
- Add your Italian seasoning and walnuts. Stir to combine
- Add your crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, stir, and bring to a simmer
- Simmer, covered, for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally
- When the thirty minutes are up, remove from the heat, stir in your half and half, and season to taste with salt and pepper
- Serve over pasta with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and some fresh basil (optional)!
- Serving Size: 1/2 cup
- Calories: 135
- Sugar: 6 g
- Sodium: 37 mg
- Fat: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 10 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Cholesterol: 9 mg
If you make this or any of my other recipes, be sure to Instagram it and hashtag #thegarlicdiaries!
In the mood for more yummy pasta recipes? Check these out: