clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Black cast iron pan with vegan tempeh Bolognese pasta sauce, spaghetti and grated parmesan cheese.

Tempeh Bolognese Pasta Sauce

  • Author: Michal Martinek
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Cuisine: American


Vegan version of the classic pasta sauce made with grated tempeh.


  • 8 oz/227 g tempeh (see note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced, peeled yellow onion (about 1 small onion)
  • ½ cup diced, peeled carrots (about 1 small carrot)
  • ½ cup diced, trimmed celery (about 1 celery stick)
  • 1½ teaspoon minced/pressed, peeled garlic (about 1 garlic clove)
  • 2 cups diced, trimmed white or cremini mushrooms 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (leaves only)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 3 cups (28 oz can) diced tomatoes with their juice (see note 2)
  • 1 cup water or vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 pound (453 g) spaghetti or your favorite pasta (see note 3)
  • Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (or vegan cheese alternative)


  1. Coarsely grate or finely chop the tempeh. You will get about 2 cups grated tempeh. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, about 30 seconds. Add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, and the vegetables soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms, salt, oregano, chili pepper, black pepper, sage, rosemary, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the grated tempeh and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, tomatoes with their juice, water or stock, and brown sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid, and simmer, stirring twice or three times, for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Adjust seasoning by adding more salt, black pepper, or brown sugar to taste. 
  7. At this point, you can use the Bolognese sauce with pasta, or let it cool completely. It will last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, or up to 3 months in the freezer. BTW it tastes better the next day, because it has time to set and develop deeper flavor.
  8. To serve the sauce with pasta: Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil over high heat, and add, depending on the amount of pasta you’re cooking, about 2–3 tablespoons salt.
  9. Add the pasta to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook over medium-high heat until al dente. (Taste a piece of pasta to test).
  10. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water. This is an important step, because the water contains starch from the pasta, and will help thicken the pasta sauce. Set it aside, then drain the pasta in a colander. 
  11. Add the pasta to the pot with the Bolognese sauce, add the reserved 1 cup of pasta water, and stir to combine. 
  12. Serve the pasta in individual bowls, topped with the grated cheese. 


  1. Tempeh. I used organic Tempeh from Trader Joe’s for this recipe. It contains soybeans, rice, barley and millet. You can use any brand of plain tempeh as long as it doesn’t have flavor added to it, such as “smoky” or “barbecue”.
  2. Tomatoes. You can either use a can of already crushed tomatoes or a can of whole, and chop them yourself.
  3. Pasta shapes. Spaghetti are my favorite, but this sauce is great on penne, orecchiette, farfalle, macaroni or pappardelle. 
  4. To cook pasta for one or two. Cook about 120g of pasta per person, reserve some of the water, and drain. For one person, heat about 1 cup of the Bolognese sauce in a large skillet. Add the cooked pasta and the reserved water, stir until heated through and the sauce is emulsified, and sticks to the pasta. Serve in a bowl, topped with grated cheese. 
  5. Leftovers. If you have any leftovers of pasta mixed with the sauce, you can store them in a container in the fridge. To reheat, add some water, mix, and warm up in a large skillet over medium heat, or in a microwave. 
  6. Storage. Store the sauce in a container, covered, for up to 4 days in the fridge.
  7. Freeze. Measure out 2 cups of sauce per container/freezer bag, seal, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and use within 1 day. Don’t freeze again.