You guys. This recipe. I am SO EXCITED to share it with you. It’s all the goodness of a pasta with a chunky, “meaty” marinara sauce, but made entirely of vegetables and nuts. A huge portion is less than 250 calories, and chock full of garden-fresh goodness. I’ve worked on it over the last couple of months, tweaking it here and there, but finally, I landed on the recipe that was recently described as “heaven on a plate.” So without further ado, I give you, Vegetable Bolognese.
I kid you not, there’s no meat in that sauce, faux or otherwise. Can you believe it? Me either! And oh, it’s so yummy. Plus, it’s a cinch to make. Ready?
First, gather your ingredients. You know how those health experts are always saying to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and venture into the center aisles with fear and trembling lest the potato chip goblin come out to grab you? Well, other than the tomatoes and the walnuts, plus the seasonings, everything else can be found in the produce section! Chances are you already have the middle aisle items in your pantry right now, so you can completely avoid “Temptation Aisle.” I’m looking out for you.
The cast of characters are carrots, cauliflower, dried basil/oregano, garlic, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, onion, tomatoes (canned and sundried), walnuts, and zucchini. Yes, I did that in alphabetical order. Next time I’ll reverse it just to mess with you.
Now, before you freak out about the cauliflower, let me just assure you that you CANNOT taste it. There is no hint of any cabbage-type flavor at all. If you’ve ever had cauliflower rice, you’ll know that this is the truth. Once shredded and sauteed, cauliflower takes on a savory, dare I say nutty flavor, and it’s both tasty and good for you. So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on. First, go soak the sundried tomatoes in some warm water. They’ll soften up while you work on the other vegetables.
Next, dig out your food processor and reach into the way way back of the cabinet to find your shredding attachment. But be careful! It’s sharp. If you don’t have the shredding attachment, no biggie, I’ve got you covered.
Now, shred the cauliflower, carrots, onions, garlic, and mushrooms. This will fill up a standard 12-cup processor to the brim. See?
If you don’t have a shredding attachment, you can pulse each ingredient using the s-blade, but I’d recommend working in batches so that you don’t end up pureeing anything by accident. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate everything into a large bowl using a standard box grater (use the side with the largest holes).
Next, preheat a large deep nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the shredded veggies and saute for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables have reduced in volume and most of the water has been cooked out.
It should look like this.
Next, grind the walnuts into a coarse meal in the food processor. You want some texture, but not big pieces. Add the walnuts to the skillet along with the salt, dried herbs, and nutritional yeast. Stir for a few seconds to “bloom” the seasonings.
Next, drain the sundried tomatoes and add them to the food processor along with one can of crushed tomatoes. Speaking of the tomatoes, this is one item that I like to splurge on. I’ve tried a lot of canned tomatoes in my day, and Muir Glen is by far my favorite. I always keep my eyes peeled for coupons on the cans ($1 off 2 cans, typically), and I even buy them by the case from Amazon. They’re worth seeking out, but truly any crushed tomatoes will do just fine.
Puree the tomatoes until smooth and add to the pan along with the second can of tomatoes. Stir to combine, and test for seasoning. If it tastes too acidic, add one teaspoon of maple syrup to balance out the flavors. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce warm through and reduce slightly while you get to work on the zoodles.
Wait, the what?
You know, ZOODLES! Noodles made from zucchini! I admit, it’s a silly word, but I’m silly, so it works out well. We’ve been eating zoodles like crazy around these parts. Here’s what I use to make mine.
Behold, the Paderno World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer.
I love, love, love my spiralizer. It’s easy to use, quick to clean, and makes piles and piles of wonderful zoodles. Apparently you can also use it for sweet potatoes and white potatoes and butternut squash and cucumbers and possibly other cylindrical veggies, but I haven’t graduated beyond zoodles. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
One other option is to use the julienne blade on a mandoline slicer, or even a vegetable peeler (although I bet that would take quite a bit of time). That said, if you can foresee wanting to make a lot of veggie noodles, I would highly recommend the spiralizer. It’s awesome.
I mean, just look at those beautiful zoodles. You need them in your life.
One final note. Since the zucchini noodles are raw, they can make the sauce a little watery at first and cool it down a bit when mixed together. If you’re making the full recipe, I would recommend using your biggest pot to cook the bolognese, and then mixing in the zoodles at the very end to warm everything through before serving. Once mixed in, they will absorb some of the moisture and the walnuts also help to thicken everything up. Or, if you have time, sprinkle some salt over the zoodles and let them hang out in a colander for about 20 minutes. The salt will draw out a lot of the water and it creates a nice texture to the zoodles, too. Don’t forget to put the colander in the sink or over a bowl, or you’ll have zucchini juice all over your counters. You’re welcome.
If zucchini noodles aren’t your thing, you might consider spaghetti squash! I just happen to know quite a bit about how to get the longest spaghetti squash “noodles” (squoodles?). And sometimes, I go the “medium-carb” route and mix spaghetti squash into regular pasta. Medium-carb. It’s a thing. I made it up, but it’s still a thing.
Get your zoodle on! (sigh, late night dork moment)
- 3 pounds zucchini (2 to 3 inches in diameter - for making the "zoodles")
- 1 head of cauliflower (broken into large florets)
- 2 carrots (peeled)
- 8 ounces crimini mushrooms (cleaned and stems trimmed)
- 1 medium yellow onion (halved or quartered)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 2 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes (I love the Muir Glen brand)
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional (adds a savory quality))
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (to taste)
- Place sundried tomatoes to soak in warm water while you prep the veggies.
- In a food processor, pulse or shred the cauliflower, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and garlic until they are all shredded or pulsed into very fine pieces.
- Add the shredded vegetables to a large, deep nonstick or cast iron skillet on medium-high heat.
- Sweat/saute the vegetables until they reduce in volume and the water is mostly cooked out.
- Grind the walnuts into a coarse meal using a food processor, and add to the skillet along with the salt, dried herbs, and nutritional yeast. Stir to combine and "bloom" the seasonings.
- Drain the sundried tomatoes from the soaking liquid and add to the food processor along with 1 can of crushed tomatoes. Puree until smooth, then add to the pan along with the second can of tomatoes. Taste for seasonings, and add 1 tsp. maple syrup if the sauce seems too acidic.
- Bring to a simmer, then reduce to low, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, or until warmed through and slightly reduced.
- While the sauce is simmering, prepare the "zoodles."
- Using a spiralizer or similar tool, julienne the zucchini into long noodle-like shapes. To prevent extra-long strands, pierce a sharp knife into the squash vertically along the length in 1 inch intervals. This will provide a stopping point for the blade and create shorter “zoodles."
- This sauce is also great over pasta!