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Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

Make one of the most classic comfort foods vegetarian with a delicious spiced bowl of tofu bolognese sauce over pasta.

Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

If there’s one thing I crave every time we take a turn for chillier weather, it’s pasta. Red sauced, finished with a slick of glossy butter and studded generously with little braised bits of short rib or piggy things — or draped lazily around tender meatballs or glistening crumbles of spiced sausage. Praise the lord. It gets me every time. And if we’re telling stories (when are we not?), at least once a year I’ll be standing in line at the market when I catch a glimpse of unapologetically sexy meatballs on the cover of a food glossy and I’ve got to hop out of line and restock my basket accordingly.

Rich, meaty, tomatoey pasta. It’s the kind of thing rainy Sundays were made for.

And then there’s this.

Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

This. Is weeknight pasta. Red and saucy, indeed, but by all means lighter and simpler. Today we’ll just leave it at this: crumbled tofu, sausage-y spices, jarred marinara and bright herbs.

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Oh, and it’s on the table in about 15 minutes.

Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

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Vegetarian Bolognese with Tofu

  • Author: Emily Stoffel
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Make one of the most classic comfort foods vegetarian with a delicious spiced bowl of tofu bolognese sauce over pasta.


  • 1 14 oz package tofu (frozen solid and thawed completely (see note))
  • 3 T olive oil (plus extra for serving)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • pinch of crushed aleppo pepper or other red chile pepper flakes
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 jar marinara sauce (or equivalent homemade)
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • hot pasta for serving (about ½ a pound or so, I like papardelle or orechiette)


  1. Slice frozen and thawed tofu into four large slabs and press each slab between two plates to extract as much liquid as possible. Crumble drained tofu.
  2. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat oil over med-high flame. Add crumbled tofu, fennel, garlic powder, salt, red pepper flakes and plenty of cracked black pepper and sauté, stirring frequently, until tofu is browned in places, about 5 mins.
  3. Add marinara and cook until warmed through. Serve over hot pasta with a generous drizzle of olive oil, fresh basil and more crushed red pepper over the top. Enjoy!


I love this meal for weeknights, in particular, since the sauce comes together in about the time it takes to boil a pot of pasta — so long as you’ve frozen and thawed the tofu in advance. Doing so changes the texture of the tofu completely and allows you to extract an extraordinary amount of liquid before browning it for the sauce.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Italian Pasta Dish, Main, spaghetti
  • Cuisine: American-Italian, Italian, Italian-Inspired

Keywords: bolognese, pasta, spaghetti, vegetarian


View Comments (4)
  • Hi anonymous — curious if you froze and thawed, then wrung out the tofu as instructed? I’ve made this without doing so (actually, I do quite a bit when I haven’t had the forethought to thaw my tofu in time!), and while the flavor is the same, the texture of the tofu IS much softer.

  • Hi Em, what’s the purpose of freezing and thawing the tofu? I have tofu which is unfrozen but refrigerated, can I just use that instead? Let me know.

  • Hey Dash! Freezing and thawing the tofu and then pressing the water out gives it a drier, spongier texture that absorbs the flavors of the sauce better (and prevents the tofu from breaking down into mush in the sauce). To be honest, I’ve done it both ways, and if you’re ok with a silkier texture where the tofu doesn’t hold its shape as well, you can use refrigerated tofu. I recommend the frozen/thawed version for something that is more like a traditional Bolognese in texture. Let me know what you decide! :)

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