This Vegan Bolognese Recipe is so hearty, no one will miss the meat! Big Bold Flavors, plus tons of umami taste and texture make this a spaghetti squash bolognese you’ll crave!
This post has been updated from the original which was posted October 22, 2018. This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.
This easy vegetable bolognese with spaghetti squash recipe is enormously satisfying and also light and healthy. YES….both can be true. This is healthy comfort food at its finest.
Loaded with veggies and layered with spices for a flavorful plant based meal that everyone will love. This vegetable bolognese sauce is just what you’re craving and the spaghetti squash keeps the carbs and calories in check too.
Why you will love this recipe
- Easy to make with ingredients you are familiar with.
- NUTRIENT DENSE: a small amount of calories in exchange for a lot of nutrition!
- Full bodied vegan sauce is based on the Italian Classic Bolognese…and tastes like it too.
- A satisfying plant-based dinner that everyone will love.
- A scoop of leftover vegan bolognese is FABULOUS on top of a salad.
- Warm and hearty…the perfect cold weather meal.
- Light and nutrient dense…the perfect healthy meal that won’t weigh you down.
- Satisfies your pasta craving…without using packaged and processed food.
- Vegan and gluten-free so everyone can enjoy it.
Ingredients and Substitutions for Vegan Bolognese:
- RED LENTILS: provide: protein, fiber, energy, satiety and lower the risk of heart disease. Plus they bring texture akin to regular meat sauce. Substitute yellow split lentils. Black or brown lentils will take longer to cook, need to be soaked first and won’t fall apart in the same way.
- MUSHROOMS: immunity boosters, help lower cholesterol, are anti-inflammatory, high in B and D vitamins, good for your brain and have cancer fighting properties. Plus, this is where the vegan umami comes from. If you need to omit the mushrooms, add in 1 Tablespoon miso paste for flavor and 1/4 cup extra finely chopped nuts for texture.
- WALNUTS: A wonderful plant source of Omega-3s, rich in antioxidants, loaded with protein, help reduce inflammation, promote a healthy gut and are good for weight control. Substitute any nut or seed…finely chopped.
- TOMATOES: An excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene that helps lower the risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. If you don’t have diced, use crushed tomatoes or a can of whole peeled tomatoes and chop them yourself.
- ONIONS, CARROTS, CELERY, GARLIC: All the flavor builders that also offer low calorie plant based nutrients. I love the texture the shredded carrots provide.
- SPICES: Italian basics like basil and oregano, mixed with paprika for bold flavor.
- RED WINE: Traditional bolognese calls for red wine to build flavor without additional salt or fat. The alcohol burns off and leaves a concentrated balance of sweet and savory. If you don’t use wine, substitute with tomato juice, plus a teaspoon of vegan worcestershire.
- TAMARI: I go for low-sodium, gluten-free tamari and it adds great flavor without adding additional sodium. A good substitute would be coconut aminos or 1 Tablespoon light miso mixed with 1 Tablespoon water.
- ALMOND MILK: Any plant milk would work well in this recipe. Homemade almond milk is easy to make and I always have it on hand.
Spaghetti Squash FAQs
Yes! It’s naturally gluten-free, loaded with fiber, Vitamins C and Bs, manganese and potassium. Plus, it’s richer in protein with lower calories and carb content than regular pasta.
Roast it in a 425 oven. Any lower temperature, the squash will steam instead of roast, making it mushy. Spaghetti squash has a high water content, so it’s best to draw out that moisture by sprinkling with salt and letting it sit for about 15 minutes. Then, brush off the salt and the moisture with a paper towel before roasting.
If you want long, spaghetti-like noodles, then don’t cut the squash in half lengthwise. Cut into 1-2″ rings horizontally to not cut through the strings.
Technically you can, but it will be hard and rough, and not tasty like the tender, inner, stringy flesh.
Spaghetti squash has a mild, buttery flavor and will, therefore, take on whatever flavors you use in seasoning or topping it. If cooked correctly, it will have the texture of angel hair pasta and absorb the sauce you put on it.
How to make Spaghetti Squash Bolognese:
The first thing you’ll want to do is prep the spaghetti squash to release some of the moisture so you’ll wind up with long strings that resemble angel hair pasta.
Use a sharp knife to cut into 1-2″ horizontal rings. Cutting horizontally, rather than vertically will get you those long, tender al dente noodles. A 5″ paring knife makes this task easier. Use your knife to cut out the stringy, seedy center so you have donut shaped rings.
Lay spaghetti squash rings on a kitchen towel and sprinkle with kosher salt to draw out the moisture. Leave these to sit for 15-20 minutes, then use a paper towel to brush off the salt and water that has accumulated before roasting.
While the squash sits, start the vegan bolognese sauce. Gather your ingredients and chop all veggies. Dice the onion, shred the carrot and cut celery into small dice. Mince garlic or use a microplane to zest it. Mushrooms should be diced small. Finely chop the walnuts, or use a spice grinder to make this job easier.
The active part of this recipe goes quickly, so make sure everything is ready to go before beginning to make the sauce!
Saute onions, celery and carrots until translucent. Then add in garlic and spices, stirring constantly so garlic doesn’t burn.
Stir in mushrooms and continue to cook until they soften and their juices have released. Then add the rinsed lentils and walnuts. Mix well.
Deglaze pan with the red wine, scraping up bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then stir in the diced tomatoes, almond milk and tamari.
Stir will and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, add bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, add 1/2 cup water, stir well and continue cooking at a low simmer.
At this point, go back to the squash and use a paper towel to wipe off the salt and any moisture that has accumulated. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, in a single layer. Use 2 trays if necessary. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated 425 oven for 25 minutes, until tender but not mushy.
Use two forks to pull the spaghetti strands from the squash skin. It should pull away easily and remain intact, looking like angel hair pasta. Continue until all rings have been pulled from their skins. Plate the squash on a serving platter or on individual plates, ready to add the sauce.
Remove bay leaves from the red lentil bolognese. Serve chunky, as is. OR use an immersion blender to partially puree to create a vegan ragu sauce.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- Take the extra minute to salt the squash rings to draw out the moisture. This step is crucial to make sure your “pasta” isn’t soggy.
- Play around with the texture of the sauce. I like mine with a varied texture and do use the immersion blender to make this partially creamy and some chunky. The sauce will splatter and make a mess if your pan doesn’t have high enough sides. If that’s the case, transfer half the mixture to a blender to puree and then pour back and mix well.
- Store leftover spaghetti squash separately from bolognese sauce.
What to serve with Spaghetti Squash
I love the natural buttery flavor that comes out from plain spaghetti squash. I’m happy to eat it plain with a sprinkle of salt and crushed red pepper. I also love that is readily accepts any sauce you put on it and because it has such a neutral flavor, the sauce really shines. f you’re looking for other sauce ideas—not just this insanely delish vegetable ragu–to go with your roasted spaghetti squash, here are my top choices:
- Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff Recipe: The perfect combo…rich and decadent, healthy and tasty!
- Vegan Basil Pesto: If you are a fan of angel hair pasta with pesto you will adore this match!
- Easy Vegan Gravy: I know, I know….sounds a bit weird….ask hubby though, he swears by this one!
- Oil Free Romesco: Add 1/2 cup almond milk for a creamy, dreamy, decadent sauce that you can make from pantry ingredients in 5 minutes.
- Carrot Top Pesto: Cuz, there’s more than one way to make pesto…and fresh basil isn’t always easy to come by.
- Green Tahini Sauce: This sauce is so good and so versatile, it tastes good on EVERYTHING….and takes just 5 minutes to make.
What to serve with Red Lentil Bolognese
Honestly, I sometimes eat this with a spoon, and nothing else. It has such a great depth of flavor and texture…making it so satisfying. BUT, if you’re looking for other ways to serve this vegan lentil bolognese (or ideas for any leftovers you may have), here are my top choices:
- Basic Cauli Rice: This simple recipe will take just 5 minutes to make…the reason I keep riced cauliflower in my freezer at all times…and it tastes great with vegetable bolognese on top.
- Whole Roasted Cauliflower: So decadent to serve with this vegan ragu poured over the top. One of our favorite special occasion vegan meals.
- Roasted Veggies: Take whatever you have, chop into bite sized pieces, drizzle with olive oil, S+P and roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes….mix into sauce for a delicious vegetable bolognese.
- Mashed Potatoes and Root Veggies: This one is a no-brainer….and incredibly delicious. Healthy vegan mashed potatoes smothered in a protein rich, super satisfying sauce….sign me up!
- Vegan Dinner Rolls: Use these amazing and easy rolls and scoop in some of this chunky vegan ragu for a sloppy joe like none other.
Meal Prep and Storage
- SERVE: Plate spaghetti squash and ladle on the bolognese. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, crushed red pepper and nutritional yeast.
- PREP AHEAD: Vegan Bolognese Sauce can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Spaghetti squash is best prepared just before serving.
- STORE: Spaghetti squash will stay good in the fridge, stored by itself for 3 days. Sauce will stay good in the fridge for 5 days.
- FREEZE: Be sure sauce is totally cool before transferring to containers. It will stay good in the fridge for 3 months. Spaghetti squash doesn’t freeze well.
- REHEAT: Preheat oven to 350. Reheat for 15 minutes, or until heated through.
- 1 medium Spaghetti Squash
- Drizzle of Olive Oil*
- Salt + Pepper
Vegan Bolognese Sauce
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 1 stalk celery, small dice
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups assorted mushrooms,* diced
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and picked over
- 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts*
- 1/2 cup red wine*
- 1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup almond milk*
- 2 Tablespoons Tamari
- 2 Bay Leaves
- Slice squash horizontally into 1-2" rings. They'll look like donuts after you scoop out the seeds. I use a medium sized sharp knife. A paring knife will also work well. As long as your knife is sharp, this task will be easy to perform. Place squash rings on a kitchen towel, spread into one layer and sprinkle with coarse salt. The salt will draw out the water in the squash, so leave them to sweat.
- In a large skillet, warm oil over medium heat and saute onion for 5 minutes until translucent. Add in garlic, carrots, celery and dried spices. Cook for 3 minutes and then add in the mushrooms. Continue to stir and cook until mushrooms soften and release their juices, about 5 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 and line a large baking tray with unbleached parchment paper.
- Stir in the lentils and walnuts, and mix well. Then add the wine to deglaze the skillet, scraping up any bits that have stuck to the bottom. Pour in the tomatoes, milk and tamari and mix well. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Lower the sauce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
- Use a paper towel to brush off the salt and any liquid that has accumulated on the squash rings. Place on prepared baking pan in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. See NOTES if you're not using any oil. Roast in preheated 425 oven for 25 minutes.
- While squash rings are roasting, check in with your sauce. Stir well, after the first 15 minutes are up, add 1/2 cup water and stir again. Cook for another 15 minutes over low heat. stirring occasionally to be sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- When all is tender, remove the bay leaves and assess for chunkiness. I like to blitz a bit of it with the immersion blender for a thick and slightly less chunky sauce that resembles a ragu. It’s an optional step that is subjective…and it will have the same delicious taste whether you do this or not.
- When squash rings are tender, use two forks to pull the spaghetti strands away from the edges and onto a serving platter.
- Ladle sauce onto prepared spaghetti squash and serve warm. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, crushed red pepper and some nutritional yeast, if desired.
OLIVE OIL: If you don't use oil, you can brush the top of the squash circles with water or veggie broth so it doesn't dry out and there is something for the salt and pepper to stick to.
MUSHROOMS: I used a combination of shitake and baby bellas. Any fresh mushroom will work in this recipe. If you omit the mushrooms, add 1 Tablespoon light miso paste to get some of that umami flavor and add an additional 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts for more texture.
LENTILS: Red lentils cook more quickly and break down better than brown or black lentils. If you had to substitute, the only other lentil I'd recommend for this recipe is split yellow lentils. Any other lentil and you will need to soak them first, or increase the cooking time.
WALNUTS: Use your spice grinder to cut back on prep time. You can substitute another nut, or even pumpkin or sunflower seeds for the walnuts, just be sure to chop them finely.
RED WINE: If you need a sub, use tomato juice or even V8 juice.
TO STORE: Bolognese sauce will stay good in the fridge for 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Store leftover spaghetti squash separately. Reheat in 350 oven for 20 minutes, until warmed through.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
KitchenAid KHBV53BM Variable Speed Corded Hand Blender, Black Matte, 8 in
OXO Good Grips Wooden Spoon Set, 3-Piece
TeamFar Baking Sheet, 20’’×14’’×1’’, Cookie Sheet Half Sheet Baking Pans Stainless Steel, Non Toxic & Healthy, Heavy Duty & Thick Gauge, Mirror Finish & Dishwasher Safe - 2 Piece
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone
OXO Good Grips Box Grater
Amount Per Serving Calories 263Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 0mgSodium 766mgCarbohydrates 29gFiber 9gSugar 9gProtein 9g
The nutrition calculations were done using online tools. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you used. You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information is accurate, complete and useful.