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Tempeh bolognese

October 1, 2008

For dinner last night I made a recipe that I discovered fairly recently—and have already made three times. It’s basically pasta with “meat” sauce, and if you’ve ever been a fan of traditional real-meat sauce, I bet you’ll like this. Nick, an omnivore, gave it his seal of approval when I made it for him. (You see, good things come out of Italy, like pasta, pizza, and my boyfriend.) I pulled it from a vegetariantimes.com email, made it as directed, and since then have altered it to make it, in my opinion, far better—heartier and more flavorful. (You can view the original recipe here.) Now, ingredients!

1 pkg whole grain rotini
8-oz. pkg tempeh
2T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, shredded and finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1T soy sauce (or tamari)
1 cup water
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes with basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2T chopped fresh parsley (optional)

A note about the pasta…
You can use any pasta shape you like in this. I have made it with spaghetti before, but you really need a shape that the sauce can cling to—with spaghetti, I found myself slurping up the pasta and having to take a separate bite of sauce. I much prefer rotini. Penne would be good, too.

A note about bolognese…
Interestingly enough, authentic bolognese is nothing like the version found outside of Italy. The real stuff, which originated in Bologna (of course), has almost no tomato in it! It contains the mirapois (the trifecta of aromatic vegetables comprised of onion, carrot, and celery), beef and pancetta, meat broth, tomato paste, wine, and sometimes a splash of cream, and is almost exclusively served in lasagna or over fresh tagliatelle (egg-based, of course). Clearly a vegan’s nightmare all-around. Outside of Italy, bolognese has taken on the meaning of any standard meat sauce served over pasta. It still retains Italian authenticity – thick, meaty tomato sauce served over durum wheat pasta is the Neapolitan style – but in summary, our bolognese is not actually Bolognese.

Now that you’ve had your history lesson, let’s get down to business.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain it and set it aside. Get your vegetables chopped, the smaller the better. Carrot’s not required, but it’s great in meat sauce. You won’t taste it in there, but it will add body and base flavor to the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a giant skillet over medium heat. Dump in the onion and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion is tender and translucent.

Meanwhile, crumble up the tempeh with your hands, breaking it up as small as you can.

When the onion is soft, stir in the garlic and sauté for about 30-60 seconds. I cook it until I can smell it. Next, mix in the tempeh, soy sauce, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover it and simmer for 5 minutes. Then uncover, and simmer till the liquid is reduced.

Add the tomatoes and oregano and stir to combine. If you can’t get the crushed tomatoes with basil, you can use plain crushed tomatoes and add 2T chopped fresh basil OR 2 tsp dried basil. If you have it on hand, add 2T chopped fresh parsley. If you don’t have any, it’s no big deal. Cover the sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes (if you can wait that long) or until thickened.

Now, I’m a little bit OCD/neurotic about meals with multiple components (like curry with rice, or sauce with pasta) because I like to make sure every serving has the same amount of both things. So what I like to do for this is put my drained pasta back in the big pasta pot, pour the whole batch of sauce over it, and mix it till all the pasta is evenly coated. See?

Spoon it up and top it with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast if you like. It is so unbelievably good. The tempeh chunks are chewy and hearty, the sauce is rich and flavorful, and let me tell you, the bowl of it you see below disappeared fast.

Yield: 6 servings. Per serving: 376 calories, 9.7g fat (1.5g sat), 63.5g carbs, 10.8g fiber, 16g protein.

If you like this, you might also like…
Vegan pesto pasta

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    October 2, 2008 3:37 pm

    Sounds good! I like your recipes, they don’t have many items listed, fills my curiousity about vegan/vegetarian items (I used to be vegetarian), and I can switch out one or two things since I do eat meat.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    February 6, 2009 11:48 am

    This recipe looks absolutely fantastic. Nothing is better than pasta, although I’m still not sold on the tempeh. Looks delicious though, almost worthy of drooling on my keyboard.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 27, 2009 1:15 pm

    Wow, this looks amazing!!🙂Jeff EldridgeSan Diego

  4. August 11, 2010 12:57 pm

    Okay, this is perfect. I will be making this tomorrow night! Thanks a bunch!

  5. August 12, 2010 8:52 pm

    I made this tonight with brown rice spaghetti and loved it. The hubs ate it but he did not like it. ;( I liked it lots though! I know what tempeh tastes like.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      August 13, 2010 11:31 am

      Aww, I’m sorry to hear he didn’t like it – although I do think tempeh is something you either love or hate – but I’m so happy that YOU loved it! 😀

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