The ultimate rich vegan bolognese

 Rich vegan bolognese recipe 

This bolognese recipe is unbelievably rich, deep flavoured, and 'meaty'. I have tried lots of recipes in the pursuit of perfection, and this one is an amalgamation of many, taking the best parts from each recipe to make the ultimate bolognese! Here's how I decided on each component:

The aubergine is as much for the texture as it is the flavour. Using the minced roasted pulp really helps to bind all the ingredients together (some recipes end up a bit 'watery'), while also giving a subtle smoky, savoury flavour. I'm not usually a fan of shitake mushrooms as they're a little too pungent and chewy for me, but when chopped finely, amongst the other ingredients, they give the perfect bite to the bolognese, really making it feel and taste quite meaty. The process of reducing the red wine, plus the addition of a little soy and cocoa powder, really deepens the flavours and makes it incredibly rich. Some vegan bolognese recipes are based around too many beans and end up a bit uninteresting, but using some puy lentils, quinoa, and black beans in this gives a great texture and they really take on the depth of flavour of the dish. And of course they add a load of protein too! 

This recipe takes a little while to cook, but it is definitely worth the effort, and you can make a big batch to freeze some portions to enjoy the next time you're feeling lazy. In fact, as with many dishes, this tastes even better after being reheated as it gives the flavours even longer to combine! It's really high in protein, and just a fraction of the saturated fat than a meat recipe too - check out the nutrition stats at the end. 

The Ultimate Rich Vegan Bolognese

Ingredients (makes 8 portions):

  • 1 medium aubergine (eggplant)
  • 7 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 2 large celery sticks, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 500g button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 350g shitake mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 300g puy lentils
  • 100g quinoa
  • 1 400g tin black beans
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • Pasta & homemade vegan parmesan to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 190C (375F). Prick aubergine with a fork a couple of times, drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil, and roast until completely softened (up to 1 hour).

Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan, and fry onion, carrots, and celery until softened but not brown (about 10 mins). Add the garlic, half the parsley, half the basil, and stir for a further 2 mins. Add the red wine and bay leaves, and simmer until the wine is reduced to nearly dry (about 10 mins). 

In a separate pan, add 3 Tbsp olive oil, add button and shitake mushrooms and fry over a medium-high heat until all the mushroom juice has evaporated and the mushrooms have browned nicely (about 20 mins). Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and stir well. 

Add the mushroom mixture to the vegetable and reduced wine mixture, and add the soy, cocoa, and almond milk. Remove the aubergine from oven, and when cool enough to handle, slit open and scoop out the soft flesh. Chop finely with a sharp knife and continue mincing until it becomes a puree. Add this to the pan, along with the lentils, quinoa, black beans, plus 1/2 litre stock, a pinch of salt and a few pinches of pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine, then simmer on a low-medium heat until the sauce is rich, thick, and the flavours have fully developed (about 1 hour). Stir occasionally throughout and add the remaining stock if it needs more liquid. 

When ready to eat, cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet, drain, and reserve a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Return to the pan with a ladle of the bolognese, the remaining fresh herbs, and stir over a high heat until the pasta is well coated. Sprinkle with homemade vegan parmesan and serve immediately! 

Nutrition per portion (served with 80g wholegrain pasta and vegan parmesan):

  • Protein: 34.5g  (Women - 69.0% / Men - 62.7%)
  • Iron: 10.8mg  (Women - 73.0% / Men - 95.6%)
  • Calories: 827  (Women - 41.4% / Men - 33.1%)
  • Sugars: 16.4g  (Women - 18.2% / Men - 13.7%)
  • Total Fats: 22.7g  (Woman - 32.4% / Men - 23.9%)
  • Saturated Fats: 3.6g  (Women - 18.0% / Men - 12.0%)
  • Salt: 1.7g  (Women - 28.3% / Men - 28.3%)
  • Fibre: 30.3g  (Women - 101% / Men - 101%) 

See the Nutrition Info page for more details on % of Dietary Reference Values for men and women.