We have been vegetarian for quite some time now and I have made the decision to try and stick to a mainly vegan diet as best we possibly can as I believe that a whole foods plant-based diet is healthiest. I often hear people saying that being vegan is too hard but I really don’t think that’s the case, especially not at this time of year when there is such a vast selection of fruits and vegetables to cook with and all any aspiring vegan needs is a bit of imagination.
We went on a date night to a cookery class a few weeks ago, something I’ve wanted to do for ages but have never got around to. The chef asked at the beginning of the class if everyone was a meat eater and all attendees raised a hand apart from myself and Justin. She then said to the meat eaters “good, that tells me you’re an adventurous bunch” implying that as vegetarians we weren’t. This baffled me because I often think that as a cook, coming up with exciting and interesting meal ideas; vegetarian or vegan, you do have to be fairly adventurous too. Luckily for us, the cookery class used only vegetarian ingredients so it sort of negated the whole meat eaters are adventurous argument that kicked off the class!
We cooked a beautiful dish with locally produced heritage tomatoes that evening and it got me thinking that I don’t buy the oddly shaped unusually coloured tomatoes enough, so I came up with a recipe incorporating them into a wonderfully hearty vegan bolognese and it’s the nicest thing I’ve cooked for weeks.
I always try and buy produce from our local fruit and veg shop rather than the supermarket. It’s fresher, cheaper and better for the environment. I found some amazing heritage tomatoes and had a really fun time photographing them. They taste really good and make a dish like this so much more visually appealing. If you can’t get your hands on heritage tomatoes then use yellow and red cherry tomatoes instead and try and mix up the sizes by adding a couple of larger tomatoes to give a bit more texture and robustness to your meal.
Ingredients Vegan Bolognese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 12 cherry tomatoes red and yellow, halved
- 2 heritage tomatoes, sliced in thick rounds
- 2 cup cooked puy lentils
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes
- handful of basil
- large handful of walnuts
- 3 tbsp passata
- ¼ tsp chilli flakes
- grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
Enjoy! This really is such a tasty vegan version of bolognese, I hope you love it as much as we do.
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How to make vegan bolognese
- Boil a large saucepan of water for the pasta.
- Heat olive oil in a heavy based pan.
- Add diced onion carrot and celery to the pan. Fry on a low heat until soft, stirring frequently so it doesn’t catch. Finally, add in garlic and sauté until it softens and you can smell it cooking.
- Cook your pasta until al-dente.
- Chop softened sun-dried tomatoes roughly and put them in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar until they turn into a paste. Add walnuts and chopped basil leaves and to make the pesto, you can add a little olive oil if it’s not wet enough.
- Move onion, carrot, celery and garlic mixture to one side of the pan and add your tomatoes. Let them cook for about a minute, then add pesto, cooked lentils, the passata and balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg, chilli and sugar to taste.
- Add cooked pasta to the pan. Toss it in the sauce to warm and serve with a few walnuts and torn basil leaves on top.