No joke, you read that right, Cauliflower Bolognese Pasta. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to fall in love with this recipe, because it’s sooo hearty and delicious. The taste and textures will leave you speechless. It has cauliflower and mushrooms, which are chopped and sautéed until toasted adding an incredible flavour and “meatiness” to the sauce. It’s a perfect recipe to introduce vegetables to your diet without realizing it. And if you have to host a dinner with vegan friends, this will make it a pure success!
These Spaghetti Bolognese… is pasta Bolognese, just minus the meat and with extra vitamins for the body. It’s not the traditional recipe, I know, but I promise it’s GREAT.
The thing was that I had cauliflower and a well-stocked pantry, but I didn’t have minced meat, so… I decided to make my bolognese sauce and change the meat for cauliflower and, OMG, it was so good! I know it may surprise you but it’s really worth adding this recipe to your repertoire: if you have kids (and not so kids) who have problems with vegetables, this is a super way to sneak them in and it’s also naturally vegan :).
Cauliflower Bolognese Ingredients
- Onion, Carrot and Celery: the holy trinity of the Italian sauce.
- Garlic: I love it in any type of sauce, it gives such a Mediterranean flavour.
- Mushrooms: they are meaty, so they add an extra layer of texture to the cauliflower and make the Bolognese more substantial.
- Red wine: the wine is a must in the Bolognese sauce, it adds depth of flavour. You can use white or red, but considering that cauliflower is quite mild, red brings more intensity and a touch of color.
- Chilli: for a bit of spiciness. It’s totally optional, but I love a beat of heat in the background. This time I have gone with fresh chilli, which is less strong than the dried one, but if what you have is a dried chilli, go ahead with it. If you don’t like spicy, you can totally omit it.
- Cauliflower: the start of the show in today’s bolognese recipe. This vegetable has so many good properties, and since it has such a neutral flavour it’s super versatile.
- Passata: or crushed tomatoes, which cannot be missing in a bolognese.
- Thyme and bay leaf: in my opinion, they’re the essential herbs to add to a Mediterranean sauce if we want to add any. They add flavour without being too overpowering (rosemary, for example, can overpower the rest of the flavors).
- Extra virgin olive oil: necessary to sautée the other ingredients.
- Salt and Pepper: as I always say, they enhance all the flavors.
Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Cauliflower Bolognese
I promise that this cauliflower bolognese sauce has no secrets, but there a couple of things that I think is worth sharing to ensure that the recipe always turns out great.
- Do not add salt to the mushrooms straight away. So the mushrooms keep their meatiness, when you add them to the pot don’t season them just yet. The salt would make them release all of their water and thus they’d be less meaty in the end.
- A bit of cauliflower sticking at the bottom of the pan is what we are after. This not only toasts the cauliflower, adding another layer of flavour to the dish, but also would be the equivalent of the Maillard reaction that takes place on the meat (this is the scientific term to explain why the meat when cooked creates that brown crust). We want the cauliflower to have just the right texture. Often times when cauliflower is stirred into a sauce I find that it tends to be soggy and flavorless and we need to avoid that.
- Use all of the passata. You can fill up the passata jar with water once empty and use the resulting “tomatoey water” in the sauce, instead of using just water. No waste :).
- Use Parmesan or Grana Padano rind, if you have one and you aren’t vegan. If you finish a Paresmesan or Grana Padano wedge, don’t through the rind away. Store it in the fridge and add it to the sauce for some extra depth of flavour.
Ideas to Use this Cauliflower Bolognese with
Bolognese sauce, whatever type it is, goes well with a thousand dishes and also makes an incredible “freezer staple”. What to use it with?
- Pasta, preferably dry (not fresh), long (like today’s spaghetti), short or lasagna.
- Stuffed aubergines (eggplant) or stuffed courgette (zucchini).
- Courgetti (zoodles)
- Chicken breasts. Since this version doesn’t have meat and is so rich in vegetables, it pairs really well with plain grilled chicken breasts, making them a little more interesting.
- White fish, such as hake or sea bass. As in the previous point, since it’s a meat-free version, it makes a great sauce to accompany fish as well.
- Mixing it with a little pesto makes another sauce that is to die for.
Can It Be Cooked Ahead?
Of course! For hearty sauces like this one, we always need to bear 2 things in mind. On the one hand, resting time allows for the flavours to settle, making them more cohesive with each other as well, so cooking these sauces a day before eating them is ideal. On the other hand, they tend to be freezer-friendly, so in addition to making them in advance, it’s worth cooking up a large quantity and freezing it for another day. Next time we save time and since it can be used in many ways, one doesn’t get bored.
Looking for More Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes?
Here you have some ideas you’ll love:
- 30-Minute Chickpea Aubergine Curry
- One-Tray Creamy Cauliflower Soup
- Eggs in Purgatory with Courgette
- Easy Courgette Fritters (gluten free)
If you make this Cauliflower Bolognese Pasta recipe, be sure to leave a comment and rate it. Hearing from you is everything! Oh, and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram, I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!
Cauliflower Bolognese Pasta
- 600 g pasta - 100 g pasta per person
- 1 large onion - finely chopped
- 2 big carrot - finely chopped
- Half celery stick - finely chopped
- 2 big garlic cloves - minced
- 250 g mushrooms - roughly chopped
- 50 ml red wine
- 1 chili - deseeded and chopped (optional)
- 1 cauliflower head - finely chopped or riced
- 670 g passata
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Black Pepper
- Fresh oregano
- Parmesan Cheese - or grana padano or an equivalent vegan cheese, grated
- Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil. Once hot, sauté the onion for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Season with salt and add the carrot, celery and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes until they have softened.
- Add the mushrooms. Sauté them over medium-high heat until they have released some water and taken on a little colour.
- Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Cook until the alcohol has evaporated.
- Stir in the cauliflower and chilli if using it. Cook, still stirring occasionally, until it begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, around 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the tomato passata, thyme and bay leaf.
- Add one glass of water (see notes), bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 1 hour uncovered. Check it every now and then and add water as needed. In the end, you should get a reduced sauce.
- In the meantime, bring some water to a boil in another pot and cook the pasta as per the package instructions. Reserve some of the pasta water and drain.
- Mix the sauce with the pasta and use the reserved pasta water to adjust consitency.
- Serve with cheese and oregano. Enjoy!
- You can fill your passata jar with water to rinse it and use the resulting tomatoey water in step 4.
- Ideas for using bolognese: stuffed aubergines or courgette, lasagne, courgetti…