When we make a recipe we always ask ourselves if it is good enough to be served in a restaurant. If the answer is no, we don’t post it on the blog. This Vegan Cauliflower Walnut Bolognese, not only would be on our restaurant menu but would most probably be a favourite. Meaty, nutty, flavourful, rich, healthy, affordable, simple and a family winner. That’s how we describe our latest addition to our kitchen.
Bolognese pasta has been one of my favourites dishes since I can remember. My dad used to cook it for the family on special nights like birthdays or celebrations. I know, it’s not a fancy meal for special nights but my sister and I were just delighted when he was in the kitchen cooking bolognese pasta for us.
When I decided to stop eating meat, I thought I was going to miss my bolognese pasta. Little did I know the vegetarian or vegan bolognese sauce can be just as good! What I love is that you can make so many different versions of the sauce using different plant-based protein or veggies. Check our Vegan Lentil Bolognese, made with green lentils and lots of vegetables.
Our vegan cauliflower walnut bolognese uses grounded and baked cauliflower and walnut as the meat substitute to the traditional bolognese. This mixture can be used in so many different dishes such as vegan tacos or lasagna. The cauliflower has a minced meat texture and the walnut makes the mixture rich and meaty. The rest of the ingredients are pretty similar to the traditional bolognese. Thinly chopped vegetables and a rich marinara sauce.
A Family Favourite
All our family loved this recipe. Our 18-month-old toddler enjoyed it as much as we did and our non-vegetarian family was greatly surprised with the texture and flavour of the dish. They always say they would be vegetarians if we could cook for them daily.
When we make cauliflower and walnut bolognese, we cook a big batch so we can freeze or save some for the next days as it will keep good in the fridge for 3-4 days. Instead of pasta, we serve it later in the week on rice or polenta.
How to make Vegan Cauliflower Walnut Bolognese Step by Step
Cut the cauliflower into big florets and add into a food processor. Add the walnuts and pulse a couple of times. For seasoning, add into the food processor yeast flakes, black pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Keep pulsing a few times until everything is completely combined and grounded.
Transfer the mixture into a baking tray. We place a silicone baking mat on our tray before adding the cauliflower and walnut mixture so it doesn’t stick to the bottom (what a great discovery!). Drizzle some olive oil on the top and bake for about 20 minutes stirring the mixture halfway through.
The ingredients we use are quite similar to the traditional Italian bolognese sauce. Finely chop carrots, onion and celery. To cut all the ingredients the same size and a lot faster, we use a vegetable chopper. Finely chop or press the garlic cloves.
Heat some oil in a pan and add the onions. Stir for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the garlic, celery and carrots. Leave cooking for 10-12 minutes. Add the dried basil, oregano, tomato paste and the cauliflower and walnut mixture.
Transfer the canned plum tomatoes into a mixing bowl and using your hands or a fork, mash the tomatoes to avoid big chunks. Add into the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Add salt and sugar, lower the heat and leave simmering for at least 20-30 minutes.
Why is our Cauliflower and Walnut Bolognese the best vegan alternative to the traditional Bolognese?
Because it’s got everything: the right texture, the perfect richness and it tastes absolutely delicious. This recipe is simple to make, using just basic ingredients that you will most probably have already at home and it’s really nutritious and healthy.
When we were in Bologna, where the original Tagliatelle al Ragú comes from, we discovered how meaty is the sauce. When you get served this dish in Italy, your pasta won’t be covered in tomato sauce, but in a rich and thick meat sauce. The bolognese pasta is not meant to be saucy but rich and meaty. This is what we created but using just plant-based ingredients and we couldn’t be happier with the results.
The original recipe calls for tagliatelle pasta, but we used rigatoni as it’s a type of pasta that works really good with rich vegetable sauces and this is basically what our sauce is.
How to make Vegan Cauliflower Bolognese Nut-free
We use walnuts for our recipe, but we know that nuts represent an allergen problem for many people. As well, many schools won’t allow packed lunches containing nuts.
To make this vegan bolognese nut-free, subsitute the walnuts for button or cremini mushrooms. You can use a food processor to ground them into small pieces or simply finely chop them.
Vegan Cauliflower Walnut Bolognese
- 450 g cauliflower
- 100 g walnuts
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 carrots
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 800 ml canned whole peeled tomatoes 2×400 ml
- 200 ml water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC or 400ºF
- Cut the cauliflower into big florets and add into a food processor. Add the walnuts and pulse a couple of times. For seasoning, add into the food processor yeast flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and a pinch of salt. Keep pulsing a few times until everything is completely combined and grounded.
- Transfer the mixture into a baking tray. Drizzle some olive oil on the top and bake for about 20 minutes stirring the mixture halfway through. When the mixture is cooked turn off the oven and leave aside.
- Finely chop carrots, onion, celery and garlic cloves. Heat some oil in a big saucepan and add the onions. Stir for a couple of minutes until softened. Then add the garlic, celery and carrots. Leave cooking for 10-12 minutes.
- Add the dried basil, oregano, tomato paste and the cauliflower and walnut mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are perfectly combined.
- Transfer the canned plum tomatoes into a mixing bowl and using your hands or a fork, mash the tomatoes to avoid big chunks. Pour the tomatoes into the saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Add salt and sugar and the water. Lower the heat and leave simmering for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Cook the pasta following the packet instructions, drain the pasta and serve with the bolognese sauce.