This tofu bolognese is going to be one of those satisfying pasta meal you will want to make again and again! It is quick & simple, hearty and super meaty plus, can be done under 20 minutes! All you need is tofu, tomato sauce (jarred or homemade marinara) and a few simple spices (and pasta, obv). The flavors are amazing and this classic Italian sauce will please all meat eaters, even if the sauce is made entirely vegan!
Who does not love a classic bolognese sauce with a meaty texture and deep flavor? This tofu bolognese is made vegetarian, but I promise you won't miss the meat at all!
I actually posted a bolognese sauce early into my blogging life, but knew for a while that I wanted to revisit the recipe to boost the flavor. Especially the tofu bits, I knew they could be more flavorful with a more meaty feeling.
Then, I came across these tofu crumbles from A couple's cook and it was such the perfect inspiration I needed for this recipe. The tofu is simply crumbled using fingers and then, the pieces are tossed in a bunch of spices before roasting in a pan to inject them with extra flavor. It really make a whole lot of difference to the overall taste of the bolognese sauce. Plus, the tofu bits roast before diving into the tomato sauce, which makes this bolognese more interesting in texture.
No need for pressing the tofu and the tofu pieces turn golden brown under 10 minutes before you incorporate them to the tomato sauce, which still allows you to make the sauce SUPER quickly.
I'll often simply use my quick marinara to combine with the tofu, which I can make side-by-side with the tofu so it does not really make the recipe longer. OR, simply use your favorite jarred tomato sauce for an extra easy, but still healthy and tasty, vegan bolognese!
Classic bolognese sauce vs speedy vegan bolognese
I try to respect the "classics" as much as I can when building up recipes, but I went a different way this time.
The thing is that a classic bolognese sauce (also called ragù) is made by sautéing and slow-simmering meats, such as pork or finely chopped beef. This tenderizes their texture, but also releases a lot of fats, which pretty much means adding a bomb of flavor for the sauce.
This is tricky to reproduce when making a vegan version. Slow-cooking a block of tofu just won't do it. So, that's why we are going to envelop the tofu pieces with spices, to make the sauce so much more flavorful. It also makes this bolognese extra fast to prepare as the tofu buts will roast under 10-15 minutes as opposed to slow simmering for hours the ragù.
Also, to make this sauce a little more traditional, you might want to add a splash of vegan cream when done cooking or just before serving, just the way Italians do!
Why you will love this pasta sauce
- Very easy to make
- A good way to initiate you and your family to tofu
- Perfect for batch cooking: it gets even better after resting in the fridge!
- Freezes very well: make more to always have a batch ready to go.
- Healthy and satisfying
- Wine-free and very kid-friendly
Ingredients you'll need (+ substitutions)
- Tofu: choose extra firm tofu. I haven't tried it, but I believe that tempeh would also work well.
- Spices: Garlic and onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika (or a dash of liquid smoke). You can easily add some cayenne if you want a spicy sauce or try with regular paprika if you can't find the smoked version.
- Other flavoring ingredients: soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
- Jarred or homemade pasta tomato sauce.
- Pasta of your choice, both long or short pasta work. Choose whole wheat/gluten-free pasta as needed.
This sauce is very basic, but you can easily boost it with much more veggies such as carrots, celery, zucchini, onions and mushrooms. Dice the veggies and cook them with the tofu before adding the marinara sauce to it. You likely will need more tomato sauce if adding lots of veggies.
What kind of tomato sauce to use
You will need a batch (24 oz or about 3 cups) of tomato pasta sauce to make this bolognese. This quick marinara sauce works great for this recipe and you can make it while the tofu is roasting, so it does not make the recipe so much longer.
I know Trader Joe's has some great jarred tomato sauces that aren't too expensive and made healthier too. I also love this vegetable pasta sauce from Engine 2 (you can buy it online) that's completely whole food plant based. Look for a lower in sodium and no added fat if looking for a wholesome pasta sauce!
In any cases, I recommend you use a sauce you LOVE, since it is a main ingredient and will influence the flavor of the bolognese a lot.
How to make it
I love how simple this recipe is, yet is packed with flavor. This is a pasta sauce you can make easily on a weeknight since it is pretty low-maintenance and does not require much hands-on/chopping.
Prepare the tofu crumbles
Pat dry the tofu (no need to press it!) and then, simply use your fingers to crumble it over a bowl. You will end up with larger pieces and also tiny ones, which is great and will allow you to have different layers of texture in the sauce.
Then, add the soy sauce, nutritional yeast and all the spices. Toss the tofu bits so they are all uniformly covered.
Roast the tofu
Warm up a large pan (I love non-stick so it minimizes the added oil needed) and then add the tofu. Cook on medium-high heat while stirring often. You are looking to brown all sides of the tofu. The bits will also end up looking a little dryer, which is what you want. This should take about 8-10 minutes.
Then, pour the tomato sauce over and stir. Let it cook for a few minutes until warmed up and to a desired texture. Serve over cooked pasta, enjoy!
Watch how to make it
Serve the sauce over cooked noodles, or even, try zoodles (zucchini noodles) or spaghetti squash. You can also incorporate the pasta into the sauce right in the pan before serving. Start with less noodles and add more as needed depending on how saucy your want your dish to be.
The sauce stores very well, although the tofu might lose on some of its chewy texture. Don't hesitate to make more (this recipe makes enough only for one meal for the 4 of us...) and keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days in an air-tight container.
Can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Try to keep the sauce and pasta apart for storage if possible as it will stay more fresh that way (the noodles tend to keep soaking of the sauce).
Other tomato pasta dishes you might like
- One-Pot whole wheat pasta
- Hidden Vegetable pasta sauce
- Vegan lasagna roll-ups
- Hearty marinara sauce
- Vegan goulash
- Penne pomodoro
- Vegan creamy tomato pasta
- Vegan baked ziti
I hope you like this tofu bolognese as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was.
Vegan Tofu Bolognese (Easy and Quick Recipe)
- 14-16 oz extra firm tofu - pat dry
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 24 oz tomato pasta sauce, homemade or jarred (3 cups) - see notes
- 8 oz pasta of your choice
- Cook the noodles according to the packaging.
- Meanwhile, use your fingers to crumble the tofu into small crumbles while keeping some pieces intact. No need to press the tofu first.
- Then, add the soy sauce, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and smoked paprika. Stir well using a spoon.
- Warm up a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Then, add the spiced crumbled tofu and roast for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Stir often and make sure it does not burn. If not using a non-stick pan, then warm up a small amount of oil first.
- When the tofu is done, them simply add the tomato sauce over and stir. Keep on heating until warmed up. Taste and adjust the flavors, this will depend on the sauce you used.
- Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. The sauce can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Try to keep the noodles and sauce apart from each other when storing.
- Use your favorite tomato pasta sauce! I often make my own following my marinara recipe (I like to blend it with an immersion blender for a bolognese), but simply use your favorite jarred pasta sauce for convenience. I love the tomato sauce from Engine 2 that's made oil-free and low in sodium.
- Boost the sauce with more veggies! Add diced carrots, celery, zucchini and/or mushrooms to the pan and roast them before adding the sauce. You might need to use more tomato sauce if adding more veggies.