Delicious plant-powered Bolognese

Want to know the secret to a delicious, succulent AND healthy bolognese? One that’s meaty but without the meat.

Well you’re about to find out! We’ve spent years perfecting this recipe and now you can add it to your repertoire. It’s a recipe that both our meat loving and vegetarian friends rave about. A special blend of ingredients makes it even more delicious than traditional beef bolognese – it is succulent and utterly addictive. Meaty but without the meat. Powered with the goodness of plants, but you’d never know the difference.

The recipe uses common pantry ingredients, is so easy to make – it’s a one pot dish. So why not give it a go?

For those that like video instructions, scroll to the bottom or click here as we have you covered with step-by-step visuals.

Is there anything more satisfying at the end of a long day?

Do you know what I love most about Bolognese? How much of a flavour bomb it is! But one question has bothered me ever since I swapped meat for plants:

If you take the minced meat out of Bolognese — arguably the foundation of the whole dish — is it still Bolognese?

I’m happy to say that the answer is yes — with the help of some clever ingredients, plant-powered Bolognese can be just as delicious and satisfying as its beefy cousin. I urge you to give this recipe a go. It melts in your mouth (with no guilt whatsoever), and has a great bite that explodes with umami.

The key to our recipe is to use the right combination of lentils, mushrooms and tofu to give this Bolognese the right mouth-feel. We experimented with countless versions of this recipe, trying every combination of lentils imaginable until we found the right mix. Be forewarned: the wrong lentils will not hold up to long cooking times and will not give your dish the best flavour.

So what’s the answer? First up, we use Black Beluga lentils as a key textural element. Beluga lentils are so called because they look like caviar; they’re smaller than most lentils and their hulls are stark black. They are often used in salads, because their satisfying chew holds up even after being exposed to prolonged heat. In fact, we found them to be the most robust of all of the lentils we tried. A great choice for a dish that you want to sink your teeth into.

While Beluga lentils give the Bolognese its bite, we use Urad Dal (about twice as much) to make for a richer dish — one with real substance — and to give it a satisfying creaminess. Urad Dal is also known — a little confusingly — as black lentils, because their hull is black. But if you get the hulled kind, like we do, then they are creamy-white in colour. Urad Dal can be sourced from Indian grocers or any good health-food shop. Both the hulled and unhulled varieties are excellent in this recipe.

Be mindful of the quantities we’ve listed; if you overload the dish with lentils, or use the wrong kind of lentils, you’ll end up with something closer to a sticky dal than of the hearty gravy we’re after here.

There are a few other ingredients that are key to making this dish sing. Tofu and mushroom complement our special mix of lentils, and in combination, they add textural interest and contribute to the meaty texture in a way that is sorely missed when they’re left out. Most mushrooms are workable, but my favourite are the swiss brown variety — they’re just that extra bit chewier, and they already look more appetising when you cut into them (and let’s be honest, half of eating is in the visuals).

I also recommend that you use both a good-quality cooking wine — splashing it in unashamedly — and a vegetarian stock powder; together, they bring out the savoury flavours in the dish. Likewise, don’t be afraid to add a few teaspoons of sugar, or increase the bulk of carrots, especially if the other elements of your dish are lacking some sweetness or are too sour. For amped-up flavour, don’t be lighted-handed on the garlic – it cooks down to provide sweet rich undertones. The flavour and consistency of the tomato passata you add can vary based on the season, so you may need to make subtle adjustments throughout the year.

Lovingly toss the ingredients into your pot or pressure cooker, close the lid and open it to find a harmonious, moreish and delicious dish waiting for you – with all the flavours dancing in harmony. One-pot cooking at its best.

That’s all there is to it. Really. Go get your hands on those ingredients and give this recipe a go tonight. I promise you that this Bolognese is still forgiving. With some attention to the cornerstones of this recipe, you’ll find that you can tweak the other flavours to your taste. Go ahead and dice those carrots into oblivion if that’s your thing. Throw in more or less herbs. With only plants, some pantry-staples and a couple of new friends, you can still serve up an amazingly satisfying dish.

The sauce is so versatile – delectable on pasta, in your favourite burrito, on nachos or on potatoes. If you don’t gobble it up straight away, you can freeze for an instant and wholesome meal.

And guess what? We think this one is even better than the original!

The Best Bolognese / Recipe / Pasta sauce / Healthy and Delicious / Meaty without the Meat / One pot

Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Brown Onion
  • 1 Large Carrot
  • 3 Stalks Celery
  • 1/2 cup Black Beluga Lentils
  • 1 cup Urad Dal (Black Lentils)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup Firm Tofu Crumbled
  • 750 ml Tomato Passata
  • 1/2 cup Cooking Wine Red or white
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 bunch Kale Roughly chopped
  • 1 cup Stock
  • 1 to 2 cups Water
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 bunch Parsley

Instructions
 

  • Saute the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until they are lightly browned.
  • Add the remaining ingredients (except the parsley) to your pot and stir to combine them well.
  • Add 1 to 2 cups of water, aiming to start with the consistency of chunky tomato soup. Be aware that the lentils will absorb water over time, and the vegetables release water as they break down.
  • Cooking is done when the lentils are al dente. 30 mins in a sealed pressure cooker, or 45 to 60 minutes on the stovetop on medium heat. If you're cooking on a stove, stir occasionally.
  • Taste the sauce, and add salt to taste.
  • Serve on your favourite pasta and garnish with finely chopped parsley.

Video

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