This vegan bolognese recipe is unbelievably rich, deep flavoured, and 'meaty'. I’ve tried dozens 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 vegan 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 create a rich, silky texture (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 a combination of puy lentils, quinoa, and black/kidney beans in this gives a great texture and they really absorb the depth of flavour of the dish. And of course they add a load of protein too!
Although this bolognese recipe is easy, it is a little more involved than some others. But it is definitely worth the effort, and you can make a big batch to freeze some portions to save for a rainy day. In fact, as with many dishes, this tastes even better after being reheated as it gives the flavours even longer to infuse! 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)
6 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
300g button mushrooms, roughly chopped
150g shitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 can chopped tomatoes
300g puy lentils
1 400g tin black or kidney beans
750ml vegan stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup almond milk
Pasta & homemade vegan parmesan to serve
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 2 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 15-20 mins). Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and stir well.
Add the mushrooms to the vegetable and reduced wine mixture, and the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, soy sauce, cocoa, and almond milk.
Remove the aubergine from oven, and when cool enough to handle, slit open and scoop out the soft flesh. Chop the flesh 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 of the vegan 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 - 124.1%)
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.