Ever since I arrived back from Italy last fall, I’ve been on a major polenta and bolognese kick. Perhaps it’s because every trattoria was serving platters and platters of homemade bolognese or that I enjoyed the best polenta of my life at this tiny hole in the wall in Tuscany. Either way, major Italian vibes have been coming out of my kitchen ever since.
So, it was only natural that I combined the two. Rich, meaty tempeh bolognese covering crispy polenta cakes. Why have I not thought of this sooner? This is major comfort food, perfect for this snowy season.
While the prep is fairly minimal, this sauce tastes best after cooking on the stove for at least 45 minutes, though preferably longer. You want to give the tempeh and tomatoes enough time to merry together, reducing into a thick bolognese that’s more stew like than sauce.
As much as I love a good fettuccini bolognese, I wanted to try something a bit different. Fried polenta cakes seemed to be a perfect match, and they couldn’t be easier. Buy a tube, slice and lightly fry. Of course, if you want a more traditional route, this sauce would taste incredible on just any noodle. I used leftovers with spaghetti squash and it was almost as good as this polenta version.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking!
1 tube pre-cooked polenta, sliced into 1/2” circles
1/4 cup flour
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (8 ounce) package tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, or more/less)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine (can sub vegetable broth)
1 (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Make the bolognese. Using a box grater, crumble the tempeh to resemble crumbs. If you don’t have a box grater, finely chop the tempeh.
Heat the olive oil in a dutch-oven or large stock-pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat for 5 minutes until translucent and slightly tender. Add in the tempeh and gently fry until crispy and slightly golden, about 8-10 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, carrots and celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes until vegetables are just softened. Stir in the dried herbs.
Add the tomato paste and stir constantly until the paste is mixed well into all the vegetables. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the red wine (or vegetable broth), using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned vegetable bits. Cook until most of the liquid has cooked off, about 4-5 minutes.
Stir in the crushed tomatoes, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 45-60 minutes until sauce is thick and reduced. Add in salt (I usually start with 1/2 teaspoon and go from there) and stir in the parsley.
About 15 minutes before the bolognese is done, make the polenta cakes. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat (I love my cast-iron).
Lightly dust the polenta circles in the flour, then add to the heated pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until crispy and golden brown. Transfer to a plate, then serve with tempeh bolognese. Garnish with more parsley, if desired.
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Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.