Are you familiar with Dr. Joel Fuhrman‘s Eat To Live diet-style, a whole-foods plant-based diet comprising massive amounts of vegetables plus fruit, beans, nuts, and seeds? It’s a plan I have recommended in the past to people who are looking for a healthy weight-loss “diet” to follow. Dr. F prescribes a nice balance of raw and cooked foods, he’s not anti-fat (love that!), and he backs up all his claims and recommendations with plenty of science. I luff science.
Now, where I depart from the good doctor is that I do eat sugar, oil, and salt, all of which are forbidden on his plan. I mean, I don’t overdo it, and I pretty much only eat unrefined sweeteners (coconut nectar and palm sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, occasionally evaporated cane juice, and several others…oh, and quite a bit of stevia!), cold-pressed oils (mainly olive and coconut, a little sesame here and there), and natural sea salt (plus tamari/soy sauce/aminos sometimes), but Dr. F would frown on all of these. Oh, well. I’m personally much happier with an 80-90% healthy diet than I am when killing myself trying to eat a 100% perfect diet. Are you the same way?
Nonetheless, I do often like to challenge myself to create “nutritarian” (i.e. Eat To Live-friendly) recipes. If nothing else, the more SOS-free (sugar-, oil-, and salt-free) meals I eat, the more balanced, healthful, and nutrient-dense my diet will be overall.
So that’s how the creation of this bolognese (“meat” sauce) came about: in the spirit of Dr. Fuhrman, I packed as many vegetables as I possibly could into this pot of goodness, and didn’t even have a need for added sugar, oil, or salt. (Note: I did employ a tiny bit of Bragg liquid aminos, which Dr. F occasionally allows in small amounts, and Spike all-purpose seasoning to get the proper savory flavor. You can substitute Mrs. Dash for the Spike or use sea salt to taste.)
My #1 tip for this recipe is to use your food processor to dice/mince all these veggies. Seriously. I find veggie-chopping to be as meditative as the next food blogger, but this is A TON of work to do by hand, so please, take the help from the appliance on this one. It looks like a long list of directions, but it all basically amounts to: chop, add, stir, repeat.
For being so damn healthy, you won’t believe how delicious this is. When Matt and I first tasted it, we were speechless. I’ve since made it two more times, and we still can’t get over how good it is.
Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Nut-Free, Oil-Free, Sugar-Free
Low-Calorie, Low-Fat, Low-Sodium
Per 1-cup: 88 calories, 2.9g fat (trace sat), 12.9g carbs, 3g fiber, 5g protein
- ½ cup vegetable broth or water
- 2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 leek, white and light green part only, cleaned and chopped
- 2 broccoli stems (or ½ cup cauliflower), roughly chopped
- 10 to 12 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 6 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 4 large or 6 small carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 package button mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
- 1 (15-oz.) can black or green olives, rinsed and drained
- 2 jarred roasted red peppers (or 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped)
- 1 medium beet, peeled and chopped (or ½ cup canned beets)
- 1 large, soft Medjool date (or 3 Deglet Noors), pitted and minced
- 1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
- 2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
- 1 (8-oz.) package organic tempeh
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon Spike seasoning (*sub Mrs. Dash or use or sea salt to taste)
- 1 tablespoon Bragg liquid aminos (*or tamari or soy sauce)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ½ to 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the veggie broth or water over medium heat.
- Place the onion and leek in a food processor and pulse until finely diced. Transfer to the pot with the broth and put the lid on.
- Place the broccoli stems (or cauliflower) and garlic in the food processor (there's no need to clean the bowl between all these steps) and pulse until finely diced. Transfer to the pot, stir, and put the lid back on.
- Place the celery and carrots in the food processor and pulse until finely diced. Transfer to the pot, stir, and put the lid back on.
- Place the mushrooms in the food processor and pulse until finely diced. Transfer to the pot, stir, and put the lid back on.
- Place the olives in the food processor and pulse until finely diced. Transfer to the pot, stir, and put the lid back on.
- Place the red pepper(s), beet(s), date(s), and tomato paste in the food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to the pot and stir.
- If you bought whole peeled tomatoes, pulse them in the food processor (with their juices) until roughly puréed, then transfer to the pot and stir. If you bought crushed tomatoes, pour them directly into the pot and stir.
- Crumble the tempeh into small pieces with your hands and stir it into the pot.
- Add the nutritional yeast to the pot and stir.
- Add all the seasonings (Italian seasoning, Spike or Mrs. Dash, Bragg aminos, crushed red pepper, and black pepper) to the pot and stir.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, until all the veggies are completely softened and cooked through and the mixture is reduced/thickened to your liking.
- At this point, if you didn't use Spike or Mrs. Dash seasoning, you can add sea salt to taste.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the apple cider vinegar, and serve hot.
Soy-Free Variation: Replace the tempeh with 1 (15-oz.) can white beans (navy or cannellini beans), rinsed and drained, OR 1½ cups cooked brown/green lentils and omit the Bragg aminos or replace them with coconut aminos or sea salt to taste.
- If you don't have a certain one of the veggies on hand, just leave it out! This recipe is VERY flexible.
- Similarly, if you want to ADD any veggies to this, be my guest! Chopped artichoke hearts or zucchini or yellow squash come to mind as great possible additions.
- One thing I do NOT recommend omitting from this recipe is the can of olives. Yes, even if you despise olives. My husband Matt can't stand them, and he had no idea they were in there—they're chopped to oblivion, so they simply add a salty, briny undertone that's fabulous and irreplaceable. Even if you don't like olives, please leave them in there!
This bolognese so thick, hearty, and delicious that you don’t even really need to serve it over pasta (although I scooped it atop some Jovial Organic Brown Rice Caserecce, and it was outrageously good!)—you can actually just eat it like a stew.
This recipe makes a huge amount, but the great news is that it freezes exceedingly well, so it’s an amazing make-ahead dish for busy weeks. Cook up a big pot on Sunday night, put some in the fridge and some in the freezer, and you’re good to go for at LEAST a week.
You can scarf down a full 3 cups of this stuff – 3 cups, people! – and take in barely over 250 calories. UNREAL! And the taste? Oh-em-gee. Unbelievably flavorful, hearty, and satisfying. Your body and your taste buds will rejoice.