An easy bolognese style sauce made with riced cauliflower, tomatoes, and seasonings. It’s healthy and hearty and even my kids gobble this down two bowls at a time. This vegan cauliflower bolognese is perfect for any night of the week.
This vegan pasta recipe feels fancier than simple pasta and marinara, though it’s just as easy. It would make a great dinner for entertaining, as well.
The texture makes the sauce hearty, but it’s low-calorie and low fat. Pair it with gluten-free pasta and it’s also low-carb.
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Cauliflower ~ A small head of cauliflower will suffice. You need about 3 to 4 cups of riced cauliflower.
This is easily done in a food processor, but to save even more time you could buy already prepped riced cauliflower from the produce or freezer section of your local grocery store. I usually find it in 12 oz packages, which is about 3 cups…perfect for this recipe.
Carrots ~ Carrots are traditional in meat-based bolognese recipes and they help add to the hearty texture in this vegan version as well. They bring a little extra sweetness, as well, which helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
Tomatoes ~ I like a combination of crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce in this cauliflower bolognese.
Seasonings ~ Italian seasoning brings all the classic bolognese herbs together. You can use a combination of dried basil, oregano, and thyme.
I also add a little smoked paprika and tamari. They lend a savory depth of flavor that enhances the “meaty” flavor of this meatless bolognese. Tamari can be subbed with liquid aminos or soy sauce. (Note that soy sauce is not generally gluten-free.)
Pasta ~ Traditionally, bolognese is served with either wide flat noodles, like pappardelle or tagliatelle, or tube pasta shapes, like penne or rigatoni. Choose gluten-free pasta if you want/need.
Extras ~ We like to top this vegan ragù with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh basil. If you like a little spicy heat in your pasta sauce, you can add some crushed red pepper flakes.
How to make the recipe
Place the cauliflower florets into a food processor and pulse a few times until they resemble a coarse crumble. Set aside.
Sauté the onions and carrots in a large skillet until the onion is soft and translucent (1).
Add the tomato paste, herbs and spices, and crumbled cauliflower. Mix well to combine (2).
Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce (3) and stir well. Simmer until the mixture is thick and bubbly (4). Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
If the sauce is too thick, you can add some more tomato sauce, some vegetable broth, or some of the pasta cooking water. Alternately, if your sauce is too thick, simmer it longer with the lid off so some of the liquid evaporates.
Serve with your pasta of choice and fresh torn basil.
For best results, store the sauce separate from the pasta.
Leftover sauce can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
This cauliflower bolognese can also be frozen. Cool it completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions until al dente.
~ Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until is resembles a coarse crumbs. Do not over processes.
~ Use already prepped cauliflower rice from the grocery store for convenience, if you prefer.
~ Let the sauce simmer until thick and bubbly.
~ If the sauce is too thick, add some pasta cooking water, extra tomato sauce, or vegetable broth. Alternately, if the sauce is too thin, simmer it longer with the lid off until some of the liquid evaporates.
~ Serve with a tube shaped pasta, like rigatoni or penne, or wide flat noodles, like tagliatelle or pappardelle, for best results.
~ Store the cauliflower bolognese sauce separately from the pasta.
Plant-based bolognese is a hearty, rich, tomato based pasta sauce that contains no meat, dairy, or animal products of any kind.
There are many great meat substitutes that work well in pasta bolognese. This particular recipe uses riced cauliflower. Crumbled chickpeas and walnuts are popular in vegan bolognese. My Mushroom Lentil Bolognese is a healthy alternative to a meat-based sauce, as well. You could also use store-bought vegan ground “beef.”
If you choose to use frozen rice cauliflower instead of processing your own, there is no need to thaw it first. It thaws out quickly right in the sauce. Just break it up with a wooden spoon as you stir it in.
More vegan pasta recipes
- Pasta with White Beans and Kale
- Garden Veggie Pasta
- Fall Roasted Vegetable Pasta
- Creamy Sweet Corn Pasta
- Vegan White Sauce Pasta
- Easy Hummus Pasta
- Vegan Mac and Cheese
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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- 16 ounces tube shape pasta or pasta of choice (gluten free, if desired)
For the Cauliflower Bolognese
- 1 small head cauliflower chopped into florets (about 3-4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or ¼ – ½ cup of veggie broth for oil-free
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika optional
- 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
To serve, optional
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Fresh torn basil
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions until al dente.
- Pulse the cauliflower florets in a food processor 4 to 5 times until you have small crumbly pieces. Set aside. (If you have a smaller food processor, you may need to work in batches.)
- Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Sauté the onion and carrots for 5 to 6 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, and smoked paprika. Stir until the tomato pasta is thoroughly mixed in and the spices are fragrant.
- Add the cauliflower crumbles, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tamari. Bring to a gentle bubble, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
- Combine the sauce with the pasta and sprinkle with vegan parmesan and torn basil.
Storage/Freezing For best results, store sauce separately from the pasta. Leftover sauce can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. You can also freeze it. Cool it completely before transferring to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag. It should keep well for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Nutrition facts calculated based on 16 ounces of wheat based rigatoni pasta and no toppings. Nutrition facts will vary depending on what variety of pasta is used.