I recently had an urge to cook with tempeh even though I’ve never cooked with it before. A few days later, inspiration hit: I wanted to try to make a pasta “meat” sauce, like a bolognese, with tempeh.
Since it’s peak tomato season, I decided to make a tomato sauce from scrap. I used two massive (and I mean massive) tomatoes to create the base of my sauce. This is simultaneously the easiest and the most extensive step. Chop your tomatoes into a chunky sauce, dump them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, and simmer. That’s it. But the simmering takes a while. Tomatoes are 95% water, and this sauce is meant to be thick, so you have to simmer away a lot of that water. My best trick for speeding up the process a bit: push all your tomatoes to the edges of your pan – the water will pool in the center and evaporate quicker. Also, hold off on seasoning until it’s slightly reduced – you don’t want to have you base be too salty.
As I was crumbling the tempeh, I was surprised by how firm it is. I decided to cut it with some tofu for a bit of a softer feel. Frying those proteins off separately allows you to get your tempeh crispy and golden, while keeping your tofu on the lightly golden side, which adds another level of texture to the dish.
A few notes for this recipe:
1. Since switching to a low FODMAP diet in May, I have been very minimal in my usage of garlic. I only used about a 1/2 a clove, but would recommend using 1-2 depending on your preference.
2. This sauce can also be made dairy free / vegan friendly – simply omit the Parmesan on top! Hurrah for inclusive recipes.
3. The Cab Sauv I used for this recipe is by Prophecy and is on the sweeter side, so depending on the Cab you use, keep that in mind when adjusting for flavor. (Hot take: unless sweet wines are your thing, only Prophecy’s Sauv Blanc is worth it. But the SB is a great bang for your buck.)
4. I’ve always found it annoying that tomato paste is sold in cans when recipes only call for a couple tablespoons because it always ends up going bad. A super easy fix for that, though, is simply smoothing the remaining tomato paste onto a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and freezing it. Then you can use the rest of the can up as you cook, without it getting moldy.
5. If you are serving this over pasta, make sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining – you can use it to help loosen your sauce slightly, without taking away flavor.
4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
8 oz tempeh, crumbled
7 oz extra firm tofu, crumbled
1 clove garlic, micro-planed or finely minced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
Italian seasoning to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan for garnish
Basil for garnish
1. Add olive oil your pan and set over medium high heat. Add your tomatoes and bring to a soft simmer. Once reduced, season with salt and pepper and 1/2 clove of garlic and lower heat to medium low.
2. In a separate pan, add olive oil and 1/2 clove garlic and set to medium high heat. Once garlic is golden, toss in your tempeh and season with salt and pepper. Fry for 7-10 minutes until crispy and a deep yellow color. Set aside and lower the heat of your pan to medium. Add more olive oil and then add your tofu and season with salt and pepper. Fry for 5-7 minutes until slightly golden, leaving it on the softer side. Set aside.
3. To your pan with the tomato sauce, add your tempeh and tofu. Stir to combine. Add your wine, vinegar, and spices to taste. Add salt and pepper. Stir to combine and let simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, or rice. Garnish with Parmesan and chopped basil.
I hope you guys give this one a try – it’s a great way to add a meatless alternative to your meal line up! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, or tag me on Instagram if you make this!