Classic Vegetarian Spaghetti

This vegetarian spaghetti sauce recipe is easy to make and tastes incredible! Everyone’s favorite comfort food just got tastier.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe

Want to whip up a pot of killer spaghetti sauce that happens to be…plant-packed? We’re going back to basics with this Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe! It’s full of Italian-grandmother style flavor with only 8 ingredients. There are a couple flavor secrets we’ve been sitting on over here, so we thought it was time to share. You can make this as a vegetarian spaghetti sauce using plant-based crumbles, but you can sub in ground beef if you’re cooking for meat eaters. Either way, you won’t want the pot to end! Here’s how to make an extremely tasty homemade vegetarian spaghetti sauce.

Ingredients in vegetarian spaghetti sauce

This healthy vegetarian spaghetti sauce is incredibly simple: we’ve pared down the ingredients to the absolute essentials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Garlic
  • Butter (or olive oil for vegan)
  • Crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce
  • Dried basil
  • Dried tarragon
  • Salt
  • Frozen veggie crumbles

Let’s talk through a few of the important ingredient choices.

Vegetarian spaghetti sauce

Tip: use high quality canned tomatoes

Here’s a tip that’s probably common sense, but we’ll say it anyway. High quality canned tomatoes make the most delicious vegetarian spaghetti sauce. There really is a difference between store brand and good quality tomatoes. Here are a few tips:

  • Use canned fire roasted tomatoes if you can find them. Fire roasted tomatoes are roasted on an open flame, which gives them a sweeter, more developed flavor out of the can. If you can’t find them, use the best quality tomatoes you can find.
  • Crushed tomato texture varies based on brand. We love the texture of the crushed fire roasted Muir Glen brand, but there is a lot of variation out there. Experiment to find a brand you love!

The flavor maker in vegetarian spaghetti: dried tarragon!

The other flavor secret to this vegetarian spaghetti sauce: dried tarragon! For years we avoided using tarragon, but now we’re 100% sold. It might not be in your spice cabinet, but here’s why to add it!

  • Tarragon is an herb often used in French cooking, but it’s also used in other Mediterranean and European cuisines. The fresh herb has a subtle anise or licorice undertone, like fennel. 
  • The flavor that tarragon adds to sauces is otherworldly. Add a little dried tarragon to this spaghetti sauce, and everyone will ask what you added. It’s like a little secret weapon in your spice drawer!
  • Don’t have it? Use oregano. It’s not nearly as intriguing, but a good substitute for dried tarragon is dried oregano.
Vegetarian spaghetti

On using frozen veggie crumbles

In the past we haven’t felt comfortable using frozen plant based crumbles in our recipes as a vegan meat substitute. But things have changed! These days there are much less processed food versions that come closer to the flavor and texture of meat. They’re great in something like a vegetarian spaghetti sauce where it’s hard to replicate the experience of meat. Here are a few things to be aware of when buying them at the store:

  • Look for a short ingredient list and whole food ingredients. The ingredient list should be relatively short and contain foods that you know. Of course, there will be some ingredients used as binders to hold it all together.
  • Consider dietary restrictions. Many vegan meat substitutes have wheat gluten as a top ingredient: we prefer our “protein” to be mostly made up of protein. Some types of this product also contain egg, so check the ingredients on each brand you try.
  • Experiment for texture. Of the brands we’ve tried, we liked Beyond Meat crumbles best: they’re made of protein and have a meat-like texture. Experiment to find a brand you love!

Notes on using ground beef

If you want to change up this vegetarian recipe and use ground beef in this sauce, you can do that too! Here at A Couple Cooks we eat a mostly Mediterranean style diet, so we opt for the veggie-based options typically. For the meaty option, make sure to cook and drain the ground beef prior to adding it into the sauce. You can use 1 pound for this recipe.

Vegetarian spaghetti sauce

Ways to use vegetarian spaghetti spaghetti sauce

There are so many ways to use this vegetarian spaghetti sauce…outside of just noodles! Here are a few recipes that you might enjoy:

This vegetarian spaghetti sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Classic Vegetarian Spaghetti


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 5 to 6 cups (enough for 1 pound+ noodles) 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This vegetarian spaghetti sauce recipe is easy to make and tastes incredible! Everyone’s favorite comfort food just got tastier.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil for vegan)
  • 1 15-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or dried oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) frozen plant based crumbles* or 1 pound cooked and drained ground beef

Instructions

  1. Mince the garlic. Add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat: once melted, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Turn down the heat and carefully add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Add the frozen plant based crumbles (no need to defrost) or cooked and drained ground beef. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, until the flavors develop. Taste and add a few more pinches of salt to taste (the amount will depend on the brand of plant based crumbles).

Notes

*Plant-based crumbles vary widely based on the brand. Review the label to make sure they are not overly processed. We used Beyond Meat Beyond Beef Plant Based Crumbles, which are made of pea protein and have a meat-like texture. Different brands have different textures and ingredients to fit different diets (vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free). Experiment to find a brand you love! 

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired

Keywords: Homemade spaghetti sauce

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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