Vegan Cauliflower Bolognese
by Iona Berry
Most of us grew up with meat as the hero of our meals and with vegetables taking up the mere corners of our plates. It can be hard to know where to start if you're trying to flip the script and cook plant based meals that don’t feel like just eating a plate full of sides. Building an exciting, yet satisfying meal around vegetables - whether that’s a bunch of carrots or a humble head of cauliflower - can sometimes feel like a little daunting and underwhelming task.
Our new series, Veg and Two Veg is here to tackle just that and to explore all of the ways in which every day vegetables can be the star of the table without sacrificing flavour or heartiness. Whether you’re cooking for one or cooking for a bunch, these recipes will fill your table with vibrant, deeply flavoured and satisfying dishes that you’ll be making on repeat.
This vegan cauliflower bolognese recipe is a complete game changer. It's rich, hearty and perfect for a quick, healthy and satisfying dinner.
I have experimented with various cauliflower bolognese sauces in my search for the perfect recipe, and I am pretty confident that this is the one. Roasting the cauliflower gives it a nutty and crispy texture that mimics the texture of meat and also gets rid of any of the bitter flavour that cauliflower can have. I personally love the texture of portobello mushrooms as they add another element to the bolognese and they give fantastic flavour but you could substitute them for extra cauliflower or some finely diced courgettes.
I love the richness that comes from using sundried tomatoes, they do the work for you and give the impression that you slow cooked your bolognese for 3 hours, when you actually only needed 30 minutes. Although this ‘technically’ should serve 6 people, I have found that when the sauce is that tasty, it might not go as far as planned, so please amend the amount of dry pasta accordingly to the appetites of your guests.
1 head of cauliflower, finely chopped (roughly 500g)
Olive oil for drizzling
¼ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper
5 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
250g portobello mushrooms, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
200ml red wine
2 cans of 400g plum tomatoes
1 jar of sundried tomatoes (280g or 175g for the drained weight)
Pinch of sugar
500g bucatini (any spaghetti or pasta would be delicious but I am obsessed with bucatini at the moment)
Salt to season the pasta water
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Put the chopped cauliflower on a baking tray and it drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few chilli flakes. Toss it to make sure everything is well combined and the cauliflower is well coated in seasonings. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes or until the cauliflower is a nice golden brown and has a few pieces with golden/crispy edges.
Whilst your cauliflower is roasting you can focus on making the bolognese sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and once hot, add your finely diced onion and a generous pinch of sea salt. Cook until the onions have softened and are beginning to caramelise.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook them until the water releases, then turn up the heat slightly so that the mushrooms absorb the liquid (around 5 to 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, taking care not let it burn. Add the red wine and let it bubble and cook off for 5 minutes.
In a food processor, finely blitz the sun dried tomatoes with the 100ml of water, until you have a vibrant red paste (save the extra oil in the jar for salad dressings or for drizzling on pasta).
Add the paste, with the plum tomatoes, a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity, along with a good pinch of salt & pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes on a medium heat (or longer if you have the time) stirring occasionally.
Ten minutes before the sauce is ready, cook the bucatini pasta according to the packet instructions, but make sure to keep back ½ cup of the pasta water. Once cooked, combine the bucatini with the bolognese sauce and the reserved pasta water, stirring well to combine. Add the roasted cauliflower and stir to get an even distribution of cauliflower.
Divide the pasta amongst 6 bowls and serve it topped with fresh basil, vegan parmesan (optional) and an extra drizzle of olive oil.
By Iona Berry
Iona is our Development Chef, aka our go-to girl for developing, testing and tasting delicious dishes for you to all enjoy at home. When she’s not in the kitchen, you’ll find her either running or cycling, or trying out food markets and new restaurants around London. Continuous market research it would seem.