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Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese

vegetarian bolognese

The other day I sat beside a cheerful, chatty 11 year old on the train who spoke four languages – four. We conversed in French on the train (his third language) and he couldn’t get over the fact that A) I just spoke two languages and that B) my family just speaks English. He seriously couldn’t get over how that could ever be possible. #kidsthesedays

hearty vegetarian bolognese

So basically, everybody here is born speaking a ton of languages. Like when I met J and he casually told me that he speaks Dutch, French, English and a bit of German (which I consider a lot because if you can get us around a country and translate for me, your language skills are pretty darn good). I know, right. I grew up speaking one language and adamantly wanted to learn French in high school so I begged my parents to send to France for an exchange where I began to learn French. I really think I was the only kid whose favorite class was French class. My French is farrrrrrrrrr from parfait now but its enough to study, work, order croissants and talk to chatty people sitting next to me on trains en français.

But, we don’t live in the French part of Belgium  – we live in the Dutch part. My Dutch has grown from well nothing when I first moved here to mish-mashed jibberish sounds coming out of my mouth to finally being able to kinda understand what people are saying and being able to respond in what I like to call “baby Dutch” aka super fragmented sentences that only J understands. It’s pretty cool learning a new language and being able to begin to understand and converse in a language that is sooo new and different.

But enough about languages and polyglot kids, let’s talk about this Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese.

ceara s kitchen

What is your favourite kind of pasta sauce? I’m a big fan of hearty and healthy pasta dishes that come together in a cinch. This Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese won me over at first bite – it is the perfect balance of meaty and saucy. It might seem odd to use the word meaty to describe a vegan pasta dish but I couldn’t find a better word to describe it. It is filled with hearty pieces of sauteed eggplant and topped off with a thick and saucy tomato sauce that drenches all the spaghetti noodles without a dry noodle in sight. Isn’t it just the worst when you make a spaghetti sauce and there isn’t enough to cover all the pasta. I mean come’on!

this hearty vegetarian

And I also love a hearty pasta sauce that tastes like it’s been simmering on the stove all day long in an Italian Kitchen made my somebody’s nonna but really it was whipped up in my kitchen in under 20 minutes. If you are a fan of quick and tasty tomato sauces this Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese is for you!

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Hearty, Saucy, Meaty, Kinda Chunky (in a good way), Healthy, Filled with nutrient packed spinach, And eggplant.

And comes together in under 20 minutes.

So what’re you waiting for? Happy Spaghetti-ing! 🙂

the tomato sauce

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Easy Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese

  • Author: Ceara
  • Total Time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 5 servings 1x


A hearty and healthy Vegetarian Bolognese that comes together in a cinch. This Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese tastes like it has been simmering on the stove all day but comes together easily in under 20 minutes. This nutrient-packed tomato sauce is meaty, saucy, kinda chunky and will be sure to please the whole family!


  • 500 grams/16 oz spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp olive oil OR 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 34 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/21 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1/2 inch/1 1/2 cm cubes*
  • 4 cups plain tomato sauce/pureed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 1 heaping cup frozen spinach OR 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional)
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Reserved Pasta water (optional – if you prefer a thinner sauce)


  1. Boil water in a large pot and cook the spaghetti according to the directions on the package. Cook the pasta while making the sauce.
  2. On medium-high heat, heat up a large pan with either 1 tbsp oil or 1/4 cup vegetable broth.
  3. Add chopped garlic and onions to the hot oil with the spices (oregano, basil and cayenne) and stir it around until the onions and garlic begin to brown (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add chopped eggplant with a pinch of sea salt (helps to bring out the liquid in the eggplant) to the hot pan. Stir it around until the eggplant begins to reduce and soften (about 4 minutes).
  5. Once the eggplant is softened, add the plain tomato sauce and tomato puree to the eggplant mixture. Stir and allow the tomato sauce to heat up and simmer before adding the spinach (about 3 minutes).
  6. Add the spinach to the tomato sauce. Simmer and stir the tomato sauce until the spinach is completely mixed in. Simmer the tomato sauce and add a bit of the pasta water if it is getting too thick.
  7. Add optional chili flakes, hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot on top of the hot spaghetti noodles!


1) This dish makes great leftovers! Lasts for a day or two in the fridge in a sealed container.
2) Make sure your spaghetti noodles are gluten-free if necessary.
3) Use 2 medium zucchinis OR 4 cups of chopped mushrooms instead of the eggplant.
4) Replace herbs used in this sauce for 3 tsp herbes de provence for a different flavor.

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 5
  • Calories: 480
  • Sugar: 11g
  • Sodium: 111mg
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 3g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 93g
  • Fiber: 11g
  • Protein: 17g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

vegetarian bolognese

If you do try this Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese or any other recipes of mine, I love hearing about it! Insta or Tweet it to me (@cearaskitchen with hashtag #cearaskitchen) or Facebook it to me via the Ceara’s Kitchen Facebook Page! vegetarian bolognese

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  6. Thanks so much for this wonderful recipe! Absolutely delicious. For years I’ve been looking for a good recipe for a vegetarian spaghetti sauce that is chock full of veggies. This is it! Next time I might add mushrooms. Or celery. Or zucchini. Such an adaptable recipe.

    1. Another plus is that you don’t need to prepare a salad to go with this. The spinach is in the sauce! By the way, I used my food processor to get my fresh spinach really finely chopped. I’m glad I did.

  7. I’m not clear on the phone ngredients.. did you mean to say 4 cups tomato purée and 1/4 cup tomato PASTE? Tomato purée is listed twice

  8. Hi! I really want to make your Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese but I’m confused about what is the difference between these two items…??? 4 cups plain tomato sauce/pureed tomatoes
    ¼ cup tomato puree
    Is it 4 cups pureed tomatoes (2 24oz. cans) and 1/4 cup tomato paste?

    1. Maybe sauce if you like a thinner sauce and puree if you like your sauces extra thick? I am definitely making this sans the eggplant. I can tell by reading this it will be delicious!

    1. SO happy you enjoyed it, Jill!! I am sure the sauce must freeze well but I have never personally tried it – it never lasts that long around here to freeze 🙂 I

  9. My daughter found your recipe. It is fantastic! I was too chicken (we are vegan;) to make the eggplant because it always seems to come out an oily soggy mess whenever I try. Used zucchini instead as you recommended. Didn’t have canned tomato puree so just put some canned diced tomatoes into food processor along with my fresh. Came out great! Added some fresh basil to the top. Scrumptious! Thanks again!

    1. I am so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Nina!! Thank you so much for leaving your positive feedback!! 🙂

  10. Hoooo ta recette me fait très envie !
    Ca a l’air super bon. Ca fait un moment que je cherchais une recette de bolognaise végétarienne, celle là a l’air parfaite !
    Et pour cette histoire de langues… you’re very lucky to speak two languages correctly 🙂 here in France it’s quite hard to learn another language – even english isn’t very well taught. I have no idea why that is, but if you wanna speak another language, you pretty much have to learn it by yourself (by watching too many series / re-reading Harry Potter too many times). We probably don’t have a good teaching system. That makes me veeeeeery jealous of this kind of kids. Whatever !
    I have a friend who’s belgian (she speaks dutch) (IT’S SUCH A WEIRD LANGUAGE). I confess I forgot everything she taught me (it was too hard !) (if even think my turkish is better, and trust me, it’s not good) 🙂
    Well, bravo pour ton blog, il est super ! I found it thanks to a recipe I pinned on Pinterest 🙂
    Bonne continuation ! 🙂


    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Kim!! <3 I lived in Grenoble for a few months on exchange when I was in high school and then again a few years ago in Lille! One of my favorite place in the world!

      I'm so happy that you found my blog through Pinterest. Let me know if you end up trying this pasta - it's so delicious and easy to whip up! All the best 🙂

      1. Sooooo I tried it last night !
        It was delicious ! I was surprised by how quick it was (I hate having to spend a lot of time cooking during week nights but i also hate eating only pasta with cheese… hm !)
        Quick, esay and delicious : it was perfect 🙂
        My boyfriend was a bit disappointed though when he realised there was no meat inside (“mais, il y a forcément de la viande dans une sauce bolognaise !” je sais, mais j’avais pas envie.) Well, he also said it was delicious though so I think everything’s fine. 🙂 We don’t eat meat at home (or almost never), but there are a few dishes that he finds weird to eat without meat (it’s also the case of this soup I make often : http://doriannn.blogspot.fr/2014/02/soupe-du-sud-aux-lentilles-et-pois.html , because it reminds him of the chorba his grandmother used to make)

        I went to Grenoble once and enjoyed it, but it was quite a long time ago, and I’ve never been to Lille 🙁 (I come from the south and currently live in Paris, i’m not sure how much more rain I can take !!)

        Anyway, thanks for the recipe, I’ll definitly be making it again. 🙂 Have a nice day !

        1. Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback, Kim!!

          I am SO happy that you and your boyfriend enjoyed the pasta!! His response is very funny – this is a vegetarian bolognese so the eggplant kind of acts like the “meat” in this recipe as funny as that sounds! The lentil and pea soup you shared looks delicious as well – I make something very similar at home 🙂 Have a wonderful week!

  11. This was perfect! Perfect weeknight dinner! I sliced and added a pack of button mushrooms. Loved everything about it. However, my boyfriend was dying with the teaspoon of cayenne… 1/2 should be plenty next time. Thank you for this awesome recipe!

    1. I am so happy you enjoyed the recipe, Lindsey!! I am sorry your boyfriend found it a bit too spicy! Sometimes I forget how spicy I enjoy my food 🙂 I will leave a note on the recipe – thank you for the feedback!

    1. I ask because I’m unsure of the difference between “tomato puree” and “tomatoes, pureed” since they’re listed separately. 🙂

      1. Hi Lindsay!! Tomato puree is a thick tomato paste (usually comes in a smaller can) and pureed tomatoes are literally just canned (or jarred) pureed tomatoes 🙂 I am sure you could use pureed fresh tomatoes as well! Hope you like the recipe – let me know how it turns out 😀

  12. I made this with Ceara and I threw in a bunch of chopped vegetables, zucchini, pepper, mushroom, broccoli, onions, celery and tomatoes as I had chopped too mant for another dish I was making, It was delicious.mmmm

  13. Oh my! How did I miss this gorgeous pot of perfection! My favourite dish of all time and you have made it even better, Ceara! Love your pictures, the ingredients, the healthiness – I`m simply drooling over here! Thanks for a really great recipe )

  14. It’s so true…Im quite embarassed for the Americans (hehe) – they only learn English and one language – English or French. Honestly I think French, Spanish and German are pretty easy to learn because they look almost the same with different spellings. Dutch is just…cray cray…the long spelling and all, yikes! Your bolognese looks delicious – I love the combination of something chunky and saucy! I will totally fry them afterward and make them super duper crispy…I love leftover fried spaghetti (ahha, one of my guilty pleasures). My favorite kind of pasta sauce has to be a bechamel with tarragon or something French! I also enjoy the red pepper & san marzano tomato sauce, too, if you have San Marzanos growing somewhere!

  15. I sure hope this comment makes it through! I have been having major problems commenting on various blogs (yours included) and finally getting Akismet (did I spell that right?) to remedy the situation (with much help from Dannii at HungryHealthHappy.com – THANKS, Dannii!)

    This looks like the perfect bowl of yumminess that I think a lot of us will be needing for the polar vortex (ug – did I say THAT word?) that will be appearing for many of us over the next few weeks. Bundle up and make a pot of this!


  17. It looks delicious. Beautiful presentation, great pictures. Sauce is wow. I am hungry..I can eat the whole bowl. 🙂

  18. Wow, that is so cool he speaks 4 languages. I took french in high school too but I totally forgot most of it now.
    I am drooling over this all the veggies in here! I love how rich and hearty this sauce is! Looks so delicious and full of flavor!

  19. I usually have my pasta or spaghetti with mushroom and semi-lots of cheese (I know it’s bad for me, heh). Don’t often have it with such hearty sauces – but I gotta say this looks rather exceptional! Definitely worth trying out in my books. Thanks for sharing!

    You mentioned also that you’re a graduate student (in your bio). What are you currently studying? Only asking cause I’m a graduate student as well! In anthropology. I find that studying cultures surprisingly harmonizes well with my wife’s love for baking and cuisine. 🙂

    Love your recipe, and your blog. Will be staying tuned for more.

    Hugs from Melbourne!

    1. I love spaghetti with mushrooms – my fav! Let me know if you end up trying it!

      Yep, I am a graduate student at the KU Leuven – completing my Master of Science in Social and Cultural Anthropology (that’s such a mouthful!!). That’s totally cool that you’re also studying Anthropology – what are you specializing in? I totally agree that cuisine and culture go hand in hand 😀

      Thanks for stopping by Levan! Hugs from Leuven 🙂

  20. I’m LOVING this sauce, Ceara!! It looks so flavorful and perfect! I would love to curl up with a big bowl of this pasta right now! I’m so embarrassed to say that I only speak english, haha! I took latin in high school for three years, but unfortunately you really can’t speak latin to anyone! I also look a semester of Spanish in college and I almost flunked out! I guess I’m doomed to only speak one lauguage 🙂

    1. That is so cool that you took Latin! I always thought about taking it in my undergrad but always ended up chickening out when I heard how difficult/ how time consuming it was! Kudos to you for going through with it! Wish I could send you some of this pasta to cozy up with! Have a great weekend 🙂

  21. I love any sort of pasta with eggplant in it – this looks delicious!

    I know how you feel about the bilingual kids! When I traveled through Europe, I was so shocked to find everyone speaking 3+ languages. I feel awful with my 1 1/2 languages. Ick!

  22. Wow! Four languages? I’m embarrassed to admit that I only speak one language! I took German in high school, but can only speak a few words. I admire kids that can speak multiple languages! This bolognese looks delicious, Ceara! I love how hearty and full of flavor it is. The eggplant and spinach seem like the perfect addition, too! Pinned!

    1. I have such admiration for kids who speaks a lot of languages too! Thanks for the kind words and pin, Gayle 🙂

  23. This sounds absolutely delicious Ceara! Omg! Seriously, my mouth is watering. I seriously want to make this, but not a huge fan of eggplant so I’ll use zucchini instead. I think that is so hilarious about that boy. Gosh. I sure feel dumb now. I only speak one language, lol. I used to know some French and I used to know Japanese fairly well (I lived in Japan), but it was so long ago and if you don’t speak the language often enough, you forget it. It was a pretty easy language to learn. French on the other hand was extremely hard for me!

    1. Thanks! The zucchini makes a wonderful sub for the eggplant for those who aren’t big eggplant eaters 😉 That is too cool that you used to speak Japanese! I had no idea it was one of the easier languages to learn!

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