Vegetable Bolognese...and Umami

Now I have to say I don't eat pasta often but every once in a while I get a taste for a big hearty bowl of pasta. So after rummaging through my cabinets and fridge I thought what better to pull together than a veggie Bolognese? Traditionally Bolognese get's its rich flavor from a combination of beef, veal and pork however, I found a way to mimic that meaty flavor by incorporating a few umami rich ingredients; mushrooms, soy sauce and tomato paste. I know what you're thinking, "soy sauce?!"  Yes. Just hear me out.

Umami, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness).  It's also the name of the savory flavor in meat and fish. A loanword from the Japanese, umami can be translated as "pleasant savory taste".

Just trust me on this. Mushrooms, tomatoes and soy sauce are all high in glutamates a which stimulate our umami receptors and because of that, there is something about the simplicity in the ingredients in this recipe that after a couple hours come together in the best way.  Vegetarians and meat lovers alike can enjoy this pasta dish. You will not miss the meat at all.

Vegetable Bolognese

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1 (6 ounces) package portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 package of meatless ground beef (I used Gardein ground crumbles)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil flakes
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and cook for a 2-3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and ground crumbles. Cook for a few minutes until cooked through.

  2. Add the oregano, basil, tomato paste and garlic.  Stir until combined and heat through.  
  3. Add red wine, soy sauce and sugar. Stir together.  Finally, add canned tomatoes and let simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  4. Serve with pasta of choice and garnish with a few chopped basil leaves.


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