Italian Recipes/ Sauces

The best vegetarian spaghetti sauce (meatless tomato sauce)

22 December 2019 | Last Updated: 18 April 2021 By Aleksandra

My absolute favorite vegetarian spaghetti sauce. It’s so rich, flavorful, and perfectly seasoned. It’s the best vegetarian tomato sauce in my opinion! It’s not a quick and easy sauce like marinara. It needs to simmer for over an hour to thicken and develop a deep flavor. There are lots of vegetables and herbs and the addition of fresh basil and balsamic vinegar makes it over the top. I’m using it as spaghetti sauce or as an ingredient for other dishes like vegetarian lasagna.

Meatless tomato sauce in a pot.

Ingredients:

Labeled ingredients for meatless tomato sauce.
  • Vegetables – I’m using the same vegetables you would use to make sauce bolognese – onion, carrots, celery. They thicken the sauce and add lots of extra flavor. I really love celery here but if you don’t have it on hand try to substitute for 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds. How to use up leftover celery stalks? Try this apple celery salad with walnuts and goat cheese.
  • Seasonings – garlic, dry oregano, and fresh basil. I puree the sauce with fresh basil just at the end when the sauce is ready. Basil perfumes the whole sauce. Instead of fresh basil, you can also use dried basil.
  • Tomatoes – I’m using canned crushed tomatoes and tomato passata. You can use just passata or just crushed tomatoes. You can also use fresh tomatoes – but only sweet ripe summer tomatoes (otherwise it won’t taste that good).
  • Broth – adding broth here is optional but recommended! It means you need to cook the sauce much longer to thicken it but it gives the sauce so much flavor.
  • Extra additions:
    • Red wine: deepens the flavor and adds acidity (you can omit it and use broth instead).
    • Balsamic vinegar – adds amazing flavor and acidity.
    • Brown sugar – I’m always adding a little sugar to this tomato sauce (actually to my all tomato-based sauces, soups, and stews) it rounds up the acidity from the tomatoes. You can just omit it if you don’t want to add it. If you have a high-quality homemade tomato passata (pureed tomatoes) you won’t need any sugar because these tomatoes are so amazingly sweet.
    • Worcestershire sauce – a small amount adds so much flavor. Don’t use it if you’re a strict vegetarian – it contains a very small amount of anchovies (little fishes).

How to make vegetarian spaghetti sauce step by step:

This is a complete recipe. Scroll down for printable recipe card.

Please use the biggest pot you have – there’s a lot of sauce so this ensures it doesn’t splash all over your kitchen. I used an 8 L / 8.5 qt pot. It was only filled a little more than in half, but that has kept my sauce from splattering all over my kitchen.

Chopped vegetables on a wooden board, sauteed vegetables in a pot.

STEP 1: Finely chop 2 large onions and 2 celery stalks, peel 2 large carrots and grate on the small holes of a box grater. Finely chop 8 cloves garlic.
STEP 2: In a large pot, warm 1/2 cup of frying oil (or olive oil for frying) over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped vegetables and dried herbs (1 ts of oregano and 1 Tbsp of basil – if you’re using fresh basil leaves, you can skip dried basil). Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the vegetables are very soft. Add the chopped garlic, cook, stirring, for a minute.

Sauteed vegetables with wine in a pot, tomato passata is being added to a pot.

STEP 3: Add 1/2 of dry red wine, cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until almost completely evaporated.
STEP 4: Add 2 (24 fl oz/700 ml) tomato passata jars, 2 (14 oz/400ml) cans of crushed canned tomatoes and 2 cups of vegetable broth (broth is optional! only if you have time to cook the sauce about 50 minutes longer, so that the excess liquid can evaporate, the sauce with the broth will be tastier, but you can easily skip it if you don’t have time).

Tomato sauce is being seasoned with balsamic vinegar, tomato sauce is being pureed with basil.

STEP 5: Cook the sauce over low heat, partially covered, for about 30-40 minutes (without the broth) or for about 1 hour 20 minutes (with the broth) until the sauce thickens, stirring from time to time (especially at the end). Make sure to check the consistency of the sauce and don’t only follow the given cooking time. The longer you cook the sauce over low heat the tastier it will be.
STEP 6: Take the pot off the heat. Season the sauce with 2 ts of balsamic vinegar, 2 ts of light brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add a handful of fresh basil leaves (if using). Puree the sauce in a blender or with a hand (immersion)blender until smooth.

Enjoy!

Storage and freezing:

Keep the sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also can the sauce or freeze it for up to 6 months.

How to use this meatless tomato sauce:

  • it’s perfect as a spaghetti sauce
  • use it to make vegetarian lasagna
  • veggie pasta bake: cook pasta, sautee some veggies, toss with this sauce, top with shredded mozzarella, and bake!
  • veggie tomato pasta: ass some sauteed vegetables to this sauce like (zucchini, corn, mushrooms), serve with pasta of your choice (penne or fusilli would be great)
Meatless tomato sauce in a pot is being scooped with a wooden spoon.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

The best vegetarian spaghetti sauce (meatless tomato sauce)

Rich, flavorful and perfectly seasoned vegetarian tomato sauce.
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meatless tomato sauce
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5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 7 cups
Calories 1555kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks or 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil omit if you’re using fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup frying oil
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine can be omitted (sub for broth)
  • 2 jars tomato puree/passata 2 x 24 fl oz / 680 ml
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes 2 x 14 oz / 400g
  • 2 cups vegetable broth optional, only if you have more time to cook the sauce!
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • a handful fresh basil leaves or you can use only dried basil

Instructions

  • Finely chop the onions and celery stalks, peel the carrots and grate on the small holes of a box grater. Finely chop the garlic.
  • In a large pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the vegetables and dried herbs (if you’re using fresh basil leaves, you can skip dried basil). Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the vegetables are very soft.
  • Add the garlic, cook, stirring, for a minute.
  • Add the wine, cook, stirring, for a few minutes, until almost completely evaporated.
  • Add the tomato passata, crushed canned tomatoes and broth (broth is optional! only if you have time to cook the sauce about 50 minutes longer, so that the excess liquid can evaporate, the sauce with the broth will be tastier, but you can easily skip it if you don’t have time).
  • Cook the sauce over low heat, partially covered, for about 30-40 minutes (without the broth) or for about 1 hour 20 minutes (with the broth) until the sauce thickens, stirring from time to time (especially at the end). Make sure to check the consistency of the sauce and don’t only follow the given cooking time. The longer you cook the sauce over low heat the tastier it will be.
  • Take the pot off the heat. Season the sauce with the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt, and papper to taste.
  • Add the fresh basil leaves (if using). Puree the sauce in a blender or with a hand (immersion)blender until smooth.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Storage + freezing: Keep the sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also can the sauce or freeze it for up to 6 months.
Course Main Course, sauce
Cuisine Italian-inspired
Tried this Recipe? Rate the Recipe and tell us what you think in the Comments!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Nico
    25 March 2021 at 14:07

    5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was so so good! I looked at quite a few online and this seemed to be the best pick and I was stoked! I used fresh herbs instead of dry and added a little parsley. I used all 3 of tomato passata, crushed tomatoes and fresh tomatoes. No Worcestershire sauce as I don’t use any animal products. And finally, I used white vinegar as I was out of balsamic. The fam said it was restaurant quality if not better, so thanks for the awesome recipe, Aleksandra! 🙂

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      25 March 2021 at 16:52

      Wow, thank you so much Nico for such an amazing review! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe!

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