Best Beefless Bolognese Sauce

When I make a bolognese sauce, I process the vegetables with tomato purée separately to keep it very smooth. And, because we eat mainly plant-based meals in our house, I don’t add any ground meat. Instead, I add ground hydrated soya, also known as TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein).

This beefless bolognese sauce is worth trying. The soya absorbs the flavour of the spices, herbs and vegetables. It’s light but it has a meaty texture.

In Geneva, Switzerland, you can find hydrated TVP in the refrigerator section of supermarkets. There’s also the dry soya granules that you can re-hydrate by adding boiled water or bouillon and fluff it up with a fork. It’s that simple.

With the dry granules, you only need to add half the amount of boiled water to the amount of dry soya granules. With larger TVP chunks, the ratio of water to soya is 1:1. Note that after adding hot liquid, the TVP puffs up and increases in volume.

Below is a picture of two types of TVP that I found in Switzerland. They are both good products but differ slightly in nutritional value. The hydrated kind is lower in protein and fortified with Vitamin B12. It also contains powdered condiments with celery and some malted barley, a sweetener made from a grain.

The dry soya granules that you see in the bag are more natural and have only two ingredients: degreased soya flour and water. Compared to the hydrated kind, the dry granules are higher in protein as well as fat and carbohydrates.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Hydrated (to your left) and dry TVP granules (to your right)

In France, there’s the Markal “Protéines de Soja” and Primeal “Protéine de Soja Texturée” which are both certified by the Agriculture Biologique. In Canada and USA, the Bob’s Red Mills High Protein TVP, is a well-known and excellent product.

For more information on TVP, see Catherine Katz’s post. You might also want to check out some of Catherine’s TVP recipes here.

Best Beefless Bolognese Sauce


  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • Pasta of your choice. (For this recipe, I used farro fusilli.)
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Sautéing the ground hydrated soya (TVP).

The ground hydrated soya (TVP):

In heated pan with olive oil, sauté for 6-8 minutes on medium-low heat:

  • 2 cups (360-400 grams) hydrated soya or TVP (see note)*
  • A big bunch of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Steak spice, a generous dash
  • 1 teaspoon powdered paprika
  • Tamari sauce, a generous dash

* To hydrate the dry soja granules: put 1½ cups dry soja in a small bowl and stir in 3/4 cup of boiled water or bouillon. Fluff with a fork. This will make 2 full cups of hydrated TVP. Proceed with recipe. (Larger chunks may require more water or a 1:1 ratio)

When done sautéing, transfer the soya mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

Tomato sauce:

In deep narrow pot, heat the olive oil.

Sauté the following on medium-low heat for 5 minutes until tender:

  • 3 celery sticks with leaves, chopped
  • 1 cooking onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic buds, chopped

Then add:

  • 1 – 2 cups tomato purée, no sugar; no salt added *(see note below)
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Simmer with lid half on for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, process ingredients directly in the pot with a handheld blender.

* Notes: For a more tomato-based sauce as opposed to a full Bolognese sauce, add more tomato purée or an extra can of crushed tomatoes. For a less thick sauce, add water.

Add the following to the tomato sauce:

  • The TPV mixture
  • 1 cup vegetable stock, preferably homemade, add more stock later, if need be.
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast -or- grated Parmesan cheese for non-vegan
  • Add a few shakes of dry Italian herbs
  • Pink salt & ground pepper, to taste

Simmer on low with lid half on for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover and let the sauce settle for a while. It will thicken, so adjust by adding more vegetable stock, if need be. Serve with pasta topped with grated vegan or non-vegan parmesan cheese. Store left over sauce in a covered container in fridge.

Bon appétit!

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

4 thoughts on “Best Beefless Bolognese Sauce

  1. Thanks Julie for sharing!
    Stefano loves bolognese pasta yet he would like to reduce meet consumption. Here we have a way!
    Look forward to more of your receipts in 2008!

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