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From time to time, I crave a good tomato sauce so thick with ground beef that I need a knife to slice it.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I do love a thick sauce!  To be blatantly honest, I miss the days of spaghetti with meat sauce. (My ex wife made the best meat sauce; every year for my birthday, I knew I could count on a big helping of her homemade pasta sauce for dinner.)  Now, with the vegetarian, it would be just a waste of time and effort to simmer a batch of meat sauce all day only to eat it alone.  Actually, that doesn’t seem so bad now that I think about it!  But, I couldn’t do that to my john.e, no matter how badly I crave meat of any kind.

Tonight, however, I gave into the craving and for the first time, tried my hand at a vegetarian meat sauce, or Bolognese, as my Italian friends would say.  My version of Bolognese might be quite different from the version you’re used to for two very distinct reasons. First, my version is vegetarian, of course, and secondly, my version has some very non-traditional Bolognese ingredients (vegetarian or not).

Bolognese originated in Bologna, Italy, and is traditionally made using ground meat of some form, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and wine. Traditional Bolognese is simmered for hours before being deemed ready to eat. I didn’t have hours as this was an after work dinner. Some recipes use bacon or pancetta as well to get that smoky flavour, but again, my version needed to be vegetarian. I followed tradition as closely as I could, but in typical fashion, I had to do things my way.

This is one recipe you’ll want to keep forever!  And the extra sauce can be frozen and easily reheated. (If you have any left!)

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Pasta Bolognese

Course Main Course
Author Lord Byron's Kitchen


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups vegetarian beef crumbles
  • 1/2 cup jarred sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups canned whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, more or less depending on your preference
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish


  • Start by heating a large skillet on medium-high heat and sautéing the onions and garlic in the olive oil
  • While those are cooking, finely chopped the carrots, celery, and peppers in a food processor
  • Add the chopped vegetables to the onions and garlic and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring often so not to burn
  • Next, add the packages of TVP and continue to cook for another five minutes.
  • Using your food processor once again, pulse the sun dried tomatoes until they become the consistency of pesto. Add to the skillet.
  • Add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, oregano, basil, chilli flakes, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook on medium-high for five minutes stirring constantly.
  • Reduce heat to a mild simmer and place a lid on the skillet. Leave the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. Be sure to check every ten minutes, stir, and check for moisture.
  • If you find the sauce has gotten too dry - and remember, this is a thick sauce! - you can add a little water. Not too much! Stir and place the lid back on the pan and continue simmering.
  • At the 30 minute mark, remove the lid and stir. At this point, start cooking the pasta.
  • Now that your pasta is almost cooked, add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Stir to incorporate and allow sauce to continue simmering until the pasta is ready.
  • Serve this meaty, thick sauce piled high and topped with fresh grated Parmesan.


You will note that I used penne pasta. Any pasta will do! If you have read my previous pasta recipes, you might recall that I only use La Molisana pasta. It is by far the best dry pasta! This is not a sponsored post for the brand, I'm just passing along my opinion.


pasta bolognese


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This Post Has 59 Comments

  1. The surprise ingredient in a traditional bolognese is milk apparently, go figure, not that I am in a rush to give it a try. I have been working on a lentil bolognese recipe recently, still not quite right but it shows promise! This looks fabulous and I'll give your sauce a try with some meat :)
    1. In a past life, I dated an Italian. He would have gone off the deep end had I put milk in a Bolognese. Lord, I can hear his thick accent and Italian curse words now. :) Thanks for the comment, Brian. Looking forward to your lentil Bolognese post!
    1. Thank you, Shanna. It was absolutely delicious! I'm thinking about making another large batch and freezing it.
  2. Good call on the TVP. I've added tofu before and from my family's reaction you'd have thought I'd added kittens! But TVP...
    1. Hi Lydia! We use textured vegetable protein quite often. It's a great way to feed the vegetarian and satisfy my cravings for ground beef. :)
    1. Thank you, Gunjan! I love being in my kitchen, but photography is not my strong suit. I must have taken 50 photographs to get 3 or 4 good pics to use for this recipe. Thanks for the confidence boost!
  3. Yum! I did a quick meat sauce (real meat) last night for the first time in ages and just enjoyed it soooo much. Sometimes it's just the only thing you want to eat.
    1. I know! Have you tried left over pasta sauce, reheated, with a good piece of crusty bread? Just dip the bread in the sauce and eat it like you're home alone. I just got hungry! ;)
    1. Hahaha! Just lick the pan when no one's looking! I'm the meat-eater in our house, and truth be told, I did not miss the meat at all in this dish!
  4. Oooo...I'd choose this vegetarian version over a meat bolognese any day! It looks absolutely delicious! :) Pinned!
    1. It's been a while for me too, but after getting this recipe right, I think it will be on my table more often. :)
  5. I was surprised too when researching Bolognaise that one of the ingredients was milk. I'd much rather eat your sauce though.
  6. This looks just as good as the pasta and real meat sauce I'm eating for dinner tonight! Also, I have a vegetarian in my life, too. How perfect, I'm going to make this for him:)
  7. Oooooh I'm not even vegetarian, and I would eat that any day!! I think I was supposed to be Italian, because pasta....ahhhh pasta... always sounds good. Your sauce looks amazing!!
    1. Thanks so much, Amanda! I'm not a vegetarian either, but my partner is. I find it so much easier to prepare one dish rather than two, so I prepare all vegetarian meals at home, and only eat meat when we go out to dinner.
  8. You and my son think alike. He would LOVE to cut into his pasta sauce because there is so much meat....sounds incredible to me too. A good sauce is a staple for busy school nights. Can't wait to give this recipe a try.
    1. Your son is a very wise man! :) I'm glad you're going to give the sauce a try. You won't be disappointed!
    1. I really don't mind the long hours in the kitchen on my days off work or on the weekends, but during the weeknights, I need to get a good meal on the table and I have about two hours to do so. This sauce fits that criteria.
  9. Byron! Thanks for dropping by our blog -- and might I say, I DID NOT KNOW YOU WERE AN INVENTOR! What kinda of inventor? An inventor of EPIC-NESS! Because this pasta recipe It looks amazing. Jeez-be-jeez slurping flippin' amazing! Shared this on Yummly! And might I also add, you totally rock the beard! I'd keep a beard too - except I'm Asian. We don't really have beards. HAHA! Peace out :)
    1. Hahaha! So very kind of you to say so! Thanks for sharing! And, thanks for the beard comment... I'm a beardie; can't imagine myself without one now. I've had a full beard for many, many years.
    1. I'm sure your husbands bolognese was wonderful! Sometimes life just warrants a "runny" sauce. :)
  10. After failing at being a full vegetarian (two six month stints ending in a sick and run down me) I am slowly finding the balance of how much I can not eat meat and still function, and what it can be replaced with. I will have to look into TVP and make a low FODMAP version of this, it looks amazing. You're right, thick sauces are the best and most filling. :)
    1. I'm not a vegetarian either, Nataliya. In fact, I tried it once but lasted only 13 days! My partner has been a vegetarian for about 25 years now, so it's much easier for me to cook one meal at home and meet his dietary restrictions rather than prepare two meals just because I want meat. I eat meat when we go out for dinner, but that's pretty much it. And grocery stores are stocked with vegetarian options these days. Try the TVP, I recommend the Ives brand; it's very delicious and completely versatile!
  11. I do eat a lot of vegetarian meals, by choice, during the week but I still make and eat my pasta sauce with meat. But I now add a lot of veggies and less meat. I tried to substitute with TVP but I'm still not a big fan. I might try your sauce.
  12. Oh, this looks so delicious, Byron! I'm with you, I love a thick, meaty tomato sauce and I have actually started eating red meat in the last year after many years as a vegetarian. My favourite food of all is spaghetti and meatballs but I will try this because I have a feeling I'll really love it and it's good to have healthy alternatives. It's dinner time and now I'm starving! Great recipe :)

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