My brother’s recipe for meatless spaghetti sauce is simply the best! Thick and chunky, packed with veggies and rich flavor, you will make this time and time again. Fill your freezer with a huge batch of this pasta sauce for many easy spaghetti dinners to come. Vegetarian, vegan and super healthy!
🍝 How to up your spaghetti sauce game
Quick and easy or jarred pasta sauces definitely have their place but when time is on your side, this is the best pasta sauce recipe I know.
This vegetarian spaghetti sauce recipe is a firm favorite in my family, and was developed over the course of several years, across two continents, by my big brother Mikey. It is the thing we always have to request when we get together. Mikey has to make spaghetti.
Instead of looking for ways to hack everything (like I often do), he appreciates that spaghetti sauce making is an art deserving of a little love and care. So he will be letting that sauce simmer for a good few hours, adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that, until it is just so. He tends to eyeball his measurements but one night, I stalked him in the kitchen and we got everything measured and turned into a recipe.
🛒 What you need for an epic vegetarian (vegan, in fact) spaghetti sauce
- A quality olive oil (you’re also welcome to throw some salted butter into the pan if you don’t need this recipe to be vegan).
- 5 cans of tomatoes (the 14oz / 400g size). I like to use a mix of chopped + whole. My favorite brand is Mutti but you’re fine to use whatever you’ve got. You’re also going to use some tomato paste to ensure thickness and deep tomato-y flavor. (Want to use fresh tomatoes? I have Spaghetti Sauce Made With Fresh Tomatoes recipe too!)
- Peppers. Roasting peppers add depth of flavor and smoky sweetness and if at all possible, don’t skip this step.
- The basics: onion and garlic, of course, plus dried Italian herbs and red pepper or chili flakes.
- Mushrooms add lovely flavor and some meaty texture. They are cooked with Worcestershire sauce (a fish free blend) here to enhance their umami flavor even further.
- Olives because their complex salty goodness is very welcome here.
- Red wine because it gives tomato sauces such a nice punch, as well as helping to bring along its jewel red hue.
- Balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes.
- Lots of salt and pepper is necessary too!
Also… TIME. We need to let this sauce simmer for 3-4 hours before it’s ready.
How to serve it.
Spaghetti dinners are the ultimate crowd pleasers. You can feed vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and low carb friends and family with a batch of this sauce and the following:
Variations on this sauce
This recipe I am sharing with you was from one iteration of the spaghetti sauce. But in reality it’s made a little differently each time. Some ideas for how to personalize your sauce:
- You can use white wine instead of red.
- Use a couple cans of fire roasted tomatoes (and then you don’t need to roast the peppers, unless you want it doubly smoky).
- You can add some parmesan to the sauce.
- Make it arrabbiata style with the addition of red chili.
- Throw in some mashed capers for extra umami.
- A little bit of cream will add richness.
Not quite right? Here are some alternative spaghetti sauce recipes…
- If you’re looking for a sauce that uses fresh tomatoes, I have this Spaghetti Sauce Made With Fresh Tomatoes which borrows some of the flavor ideas from this sauce but is a little pared back to let that juicy fresh tomato flavor shine. There is also this Butter Heirloom Tomato Sauce (you can make it with any type of fresh tomato) which is more simple and pure, without all the “stuff” in it.
- If you’re looking for a vegetarian bolognese style sauce, well I have options. We’ve done Green Lentil Spaghetti Bolognese (an easy one!), Roasted Chickpea Bolognese (surprisingly “meaty”) and Roasted Vegetable Bolognese (rich, veggie packed and delish).
- If you’re looking for something faster, this Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce with Capers is a quick and easy sauce recipe which also uses canned tomatoes.
The Best Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce
- 3 red romano peppers, normal red peppers are OK too
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 9 oz (250 g) crimini / chestnut mushrooms, chopped
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, use a fish free blend to keep this vegetarian
- 1 Tbsp of dried Italian herb mix
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 5 cans, 14oz / 400g size of quality canned tomatoes (I use a mix of whole plum tomatoes + chopped tomatoes)
- A dash or two of red pepper flakes
- ½ cup (8 tbsp) of tomato paste
- ½ cup (8 tbsp) of sliced black olives
- 1 glass of red wine
- 1-4 tbsp (4 tbsp) balsamic vinegar, see notes
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- Roast the romano peppers. Place them on a baking tray whole and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven at 200C/390F for 20-30 minutes until they have softened and wrinkled.
- Meanwhile, start preparing the sauce. In a large heavy pan, sauté your onions until soft and slightly browned.
- Add garlic and chili flakes, saute for a few minutes until the garlic releases its fragrance.
- Add mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it begins to evaporate. Add the Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Now add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, black olives, red wine, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar.
- Heat and then bring to a simmer.
- When the red peppers have roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool before peeling, de-seeding and chopping them into small pieces. Add them to the sauce.
- Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring regularly, until the sauce has reduced to a thick and chunky texture. If you need to serve it before it’s reduced to the texture you prefer, just add more tomato paste. Taste throughout and add any extra seasonings or flavorings that you fancy along the way.
- Serve over spaghetti with a sprinkling of cheese. Bon appetit!