Vegan Bolognese – Born to be Vegan

I often joke that I was born to be vegan.  Like most children I always loved animals , but I also never really liked meat.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate meat all the time but it was never my favorite part of any meal.  I liked my steak well done and my chicken dry as a bone.  I hated cooking meat unless it was broken down into totally unrecognizable forms.  Similarly I can’t stomach vegan meat replacements that are at all “meaty”.  I think Gardein, Beyond Meat etc are awesome products for helping people move to a vegan diet, but for me there isn’t a big appeal.

Vegan BologneseThe only meat product I actually liked before I became vegan was ground beef.  Once I became vegan I never really missed ground beef, but I also don’t think lentils = ground beef.  A recipe that I tried to veganize unsuccessfully was Bolognese sauce.  I have tried making it with mushrooms, lentils and crumbled tempeh.  They all tasted fine but they didn’t really fit the bill.  So it was with some curiosity that I tried Beyond Meat’s Beefy Crumble in a vegan bolognese.

Chopped VeggiesI started with a Bolognese recipe from the very non-vegan blog Pioneer Woman.  As I have mentioned before I really like her blog and show on Food Network.  It is the most vegan un-friendly show, but something about the story of her family life draws me in.  I like the recipes she makes, minus the meat, dairy and eggs.  I have veganized quite a few of her recipes successfully and this bolognese turned out fantastic.

I made a number of changes to the recipe, #1 being I replaced the ground beef with Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble.  Beyond Meat is a company that is making huge strides toward helping more people follow a vegan or plant based diet.  The majority of people in the developed world like and want to eat meat.  Beyond Meat is making products to satisfy meat eaters while being gentler to the planet and removing all animal suffering in the process.  Bill Gates is an investor and calls Beyond Meat “the future of food”.

Beyond Meat CrumblesWhile I am not Beyond Meat’s ideal customer I am thrilled that they have products available to satisfy meat eaters without harming animals.  My husband, Harrison, was blown away by their chicken strips and this bolognese.

One of the secrets from the original Pioneer Woman recipe that I kept in place was using some jarred marinara sauce.  In addition to the canned crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, the jarred marinara definitely adds good texture and flavor to the recipe.  My favorite marina is the Whole Foods Fat Free Organic Pasta Sauce.  I almost never buy Fat Free food, but in this case the Fat Free version doesn’t have any added sugar, which I appreciate.

Jarred MarinaraThis recipe is a great Sunday night family meal.  I served the bolognese over spaghetti, but it would be delicious over a larger noodle like rigatoni as well.  This vegan bolognese is incredibly hearty and flavorful.  It freezes really well and I am looking forward to trying it in lasagne next.

Sunday Dinner

Vegan Bolognese with Beyond Meat
This rich and hearty vegan bolognese makes a fantastic family meal. It will satisfy vegans and omnivores alike.
Recipe type: Main
  • ¼ cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1 package Beyond Meat "Beef Free Crumble"
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 1 Large Carrot, Diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • ½ cup Red Wine (or Vegetable Broth)
  • 1 28 Ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 TB Tomato Paste
  • 1 cup Jarred Marinara Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Thyme
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar
  • ¾ teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup Minced Fresh Parsley, plus more for topping
  • 1 pounds Spaghetti, cooked
  1. Start Cashew Cream - Soak cashews in 1 cup of water while you prepare the sauce. See Note.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium heat add 1 tsp olive oil. Add entire package of frozen Beyond Meat Beef Free crumble to the pan. Saute for approximately 5 minutes to thaw the "meat" and to create crispy bits on the bottom of your pan. Remove "meat" from the pan and set aside in a small bowl. Do not clean pan.
  3. Add remaining 2 tsp of olive oil to the pan. Add onions, carrot and bell pepper to pan and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for additional 2 minutes.
  4. Pour red wine (or broth) into the pan and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Let the wine reduce for 3 minutes.
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, jarred marinara sauce, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, agave nectar, salt and crushed red pepper to the pan. Stir to combine. Add Beyond Meat crumbles back to the pan. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  7. After 1 hour add in ¼ cup of parsley. Cook for additional 20 minutes.
  8. Finish Cashew Cream - While the sauce finishes cooking go back to your cashews soaking in water. Blend the cashews and water in a high powered blender for 2 minutes until cashews are completely blended. Set aside until sauce has completed cooking.
  9. Remove bay leaves from sauce. Add ¼ cup of Cashew Cream to your sauce. Stir in completely and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper and cashew cream based on your tastes. More cashew cream will make the sauce creamier and richer. Add ¼ cup at a time until you achieve your desired results. Typically I use ½ cup.
  10. Serve bolognese by placing cooked spaghetti on each plate and topping with sauce. Sprinkle with additional parsley. Serve warm. Sauce freezes very well.
If you don't have a high powered blender to make the Cashew Cream you will need to soak cashews in water for 8 hours, or overnight. This will allow you to create a smooth Cashew Cream in a standard blender.

Are you a fan of faux meats?  Any meals you have had trouble veganizing?